4.5/5 stars

Manipulating our minds with his artistic flair, Danny Boyle once again proves himself to be one of the most transcendent directors of our generation, from his romantically resonant Slumdog Millionaire to his gut-wrenching drama 127 Hours, and now to his upcoming psycho-thriller Trance. The film tackles the complex condition of amnesia and its affect on the neurological functions of memory. Trance is intellectually constructed with an Inception-like story plagued with greed, envy, fear and lust and touches on the larger theme of forgetting the painful past and moving on.

Simon (James McAvoy) is your average English man. He drinks, he gambles and he gets mixed up with a group of debauched criminals set on stealing a world famous Goya painting. As an art auctioneer, Simon orchestrates the thievery as the inside-man but complications arise when Simon receives severe trauma to his brain and starts losing memories he should have remembered and recalling memories he should have forgotten.

With the Goya painting missing, the head criminal Franck (Vincent Cassel) tortures Simon to jog his memory, but his severe amnesia prevents him from remembering where he left the painting. Facing desperate measures, the criminals turn to hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), to help Simon salvage his shattered memory. Elizabeth soon realizes the gravity of the hypnosis and becomes embroiled in the crime.

Entangling itself into a sea of mind-splitting perplexity, the story twists and turns as scenes depicting Simon’s fragmented memory fuse with the story’s reality. In one scene, you observe a character’s death, but the next scene shows the same character alive and well. Distinguishing what is real becomes easier as the story progresses, however. Wandering in and out of his own consciousness, Simon recollects suppressed memories that resurface and threaten the lives of his coconspirators.

Mirroring another great English storyteller, scriptwriter John Hodge included the powerful recurrent symbols of blood and gore and their consequences, similar to Shakespeare’sMacbeth. Hodge’s character development was well contrived in how each character tries but fails to evade the feelings of fixation, greed and paranoia that pervade throughout the story and force the characters to become possessive in either locating the painting or, for Simon and Franck, winning over Elizabeth, who becomes an object of their desire throughout the film.

Unparalleled to his previous films, Boyle deploys an alternative directing style in Trance. Instead of traditionally shooting scenes straight on, he employs reflective surfaces to create reflections and blurry scenes to convey a superficial image, which supplements how the characters treat and double-cross each other. With the use of mirrors, Boyle was able to juxtapose characters against their reflective counterparts, which helps show how amnesia affects Simon as his broken mind attempts to reassemble and recreate a physical world.

Additionally, in order to help maintain audience understanding while still playing with their perception, the film utilizes traditional scenes and implements echoes and distant voices. This is further reflected in the way certain scenes are shot, which helps depict the disorder in Simon’s mind.

Trance is an unprecedented film, with the director stepping outside of his creative comfort zone in order to craft a film that breaks both genres and barriers. Trance is something unique in itself, and is sure to fall among the ranks of other mind-bending thrillers that leave audiences still captivated even after it has ended.

Everything from the manipulation of angled shots to the storyline conveys and complements the raw emotions, transfixing actions and events and manipulation of Simon’s mind and the characters manipulation of one another. Trance plays with the shadowy structure of an amnestic human brain and thrills the audience with gruesome, imaginative bemusements and the perils of manipulating memories that are better off forgotten.

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