Before he was the establishment figure who won Oscars for prestige projects (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and masterminded the fabulous opening ceremonies for the London Olympics that had the Queen and James Bond jumping out of a plane, Danny Boyle was a skillful director of highly styled and deliciously nasty films about not-so-deliciously nasty people doing dreadful things (“Trainspotting” and “Shallow Grave”). His latest is “Trance,” a deliciously nasty heist film about the theft of a 27 million dollar masterpiece by Goya, tellingly titled Witches in the Air, and about the mistrust and betrayal that comes next.
Part of the fun comes from having our assumptions turned upside down — and then inside out. So I don’t want to give too much away. The title comes from a hypno-therapist named Elizabeth (the stunningly beautiful Rosario Dawson), brought into the den of thieves because one of them has misplaced the painting and, thanks to a head injury, cannot remember where he stashed it. The problem faced by alpha-thief Franck (ferret-like Vincent Cassel) is how to arrange it so that Elizabeth can get inside the amnesiac’s head to find the missing painting but not let her find that that by doing so she is abetting a rather notorious crime. Dawson, too often underused, gets a chance to show what she is capable of in a performance of intelligence and subtlety. As she explained in an interview, “I wanted to be specific on who she was and make her disappear at the same time.”
The film itself becomes a sort of trance, with deeply saturated colors that shimmer like a dream, and Dawson’s magnetic voice. We, like the characters, must begin to mistrust what we see and what we think we know as the story turns upside down, inside out, and then, as soon as we think we’ve figured it out, Rubik cubes our minds again. This is a movie you’ll be talking about on the way home, and probably shivering about in your own nightmare.
Parents should know that this film includes sexual references and explicit situations, very explicit nudity, violence including guns, taser, car accident, torture, fire, characters injured and killed, disturbing and graphic images, very strong language
Family discussion: What do the title and subject of the stolen painting have to do with the story? What do you think will happen next?
If you like this, try: “Inside Man” and “Side Effects”