At first the movie seems to be telling us about the heist of a Goya painting, narrated by fine art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy). Soon we come to realize that our attractive leading man is not a reliable source of information. For one thing, he can't remember where he stashed the stolen painting. We actually start to feel sympathy for his partner in crime and torturer (removing multiple finger nails does not reveal the location of the loot), sexily played by Vincent Cassel, who at least isn't lying to us.
And we wonder just exactly what Rosario Dawson's seductively powerful hypno-therapist is up to. She's a literally nakedly manipulative femme fatale, a disturbing figure who taps into male fears about strong women. Happily the men are also often nude--which makes them doubly vulnerable. But Boyle is messing with us in this maze dreamscape: we often don't know what is "real" and what is "trance." People die, get their heads lopped in half, get shot in the penis--and come back to life like Wile E. Coyote.
"Trance" is stylish escapist fun that makes excellent use of reflective surfaces including the iPad, among other visual tricks--when it isn't pummeling you into submission. Boyle isn't one to sit back and let you feel calm and relaxed. Early reviews by trade critics (on the jump) claim that style trumps substance here. Our TOH! interview with Cassel is here.
And our video interview with Boyle is below. He talks about how this movie (and the staging of "Frankenstein") brought welcome relief from the committee-style mounting of the London Olympics, and why he refused a knighthood. This movie is the "evil cousin" to his good-hearted, redemptive last few flicks, he says.
It's the first time he's put a woman at the center of one of his movies, which admittedly tend to be "boyish," he admits. Boyle enjoys planting clues and warnings for the audience as to who and what they should believe. This movie "has a rebellious streak in it," he says. He likes the film noir femme fatale premise: "Wouldn't it be scary if a woman behaved even worse than the men?" In short, Boyle wants his films "to mesmerize people, give them a reason to come to the movies. That's better than 3-D."