All the same, the overriding impression is one of a game in which the narrative tricks and amped-up pulse dominate over all other concerns. It's as if the challenge the filmmakers set for themselves was not so much to tell a story as to discover how many clever and devious ways they could disguise and hide what's coming, to the point that the subject seems to serve the style rather than the other way around.
Hypnotism is fair game in this brash, beyond-belief psychothriller from director Danny Boyle, who seizes on a script co-written by Joe Ahearne and longtime Boyle collaborator John Hodge as a chance to play elaborate mind games with fans of his early work. A trippy variation on the dream-within-a-dream movie, Boyle’s return-to-form crimer constantly challenges what auds think they know, but neglects to establish why they should care.
The film is quite simply trying far too hard. It descends into a cauldron of iffy acting and un-exciting plot convolutions. With such a consciously exotic idea at the film's heart, it may be obtuse to ask for plausibility but there's an atonal symphony of false notes in the drama and performances. Often, stretches of dialogue will go past that sound as if they have been turned into English using Google translation software.
Some will kick against the film's unwillingness to have an entirely sympathetic character, and few would argue that by the time it's done, it's maybe gone a twist or two too far, stretching plausibility to absolute breaking point. But it just about held together for us, the film proving to be a head-spinning, psychologically rich take on the crime flick. Those who anointed Boyle a national icon after the Olympics will likely be taken aback by the sex and violence, but one senses he's been having too much fun to notice.