Trance (15) ****

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Following the triumph of his opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games, which attracted an estimate worldwide TV audience of 900 million, Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle returns to the smaller canvas of the big screen.

Trance is a tricksy psychological thriller, penned by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge, which plays loose and fast with our preconceptions.

Rosario Dawson as Elizabeth and James McAvoy as Simon in Trance. Picture: PA Photo/Susie Allnutt/Pathe.

Rosario Dawson as Elizabeth and James McAvoy as Simon in Trance. Picture: PA Photo/Susie Allnutt/Pathe.

As a mind-bending trip, the film isn’t quite as smart as it pretends to be, tipping the wink to one major plot twist far too early.

However, Boyle’s bravura direction energises every frame, eliciting strong performances from his ensemble cast led by James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and the brooding Vincent Cassel.

Art auctioneer Simon (McAvoy) accrues massive gambling debts and agrees to clear his arrears by helping criminal Franck (Cassel) to steal Francisco Goya’s painting Witches In The Air as it goes under the hammer.

The heist goes as planned until Simon puts on a show in front of the auction house security guards by tasering Franck, and the thief retaliates by knocking Simon unconscious.

‘No piece of art is worth a human life,’ Simon assures us in voiceover, which seems to fly in the face of his impromptu heroics.

The auctioneer wakes bloodied and disoriented, suffering from severe memory loss, which is unfortunate when it transpires that the painting has gone missing and its location is buried deep within Simon’s fractured memory.

So Franck enlists the services of sexy hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep within Simon’s subconscious and tease out the location of the stolen canvas.

At first, Simon is reluctant to allow Elizabeth to go rooting around in his mind in front of Franck and sidekicks Nate (Danny Sapani), Dominic (Matt Cross) and Riz (Wahab Sheikh).

To gain Simon’s trust, Elizabeth allows the auctioneer to temporarily take control of the four criminals through hypnotic suggestion.

Then the sessions begin and as Elizabeth spends increasing amounts of time with Simon, she sparks an attraction with her patient which crosses professional boundaries.

Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle don’t distinguish between reality and fantasy, so we’re never quite sure if events are unfolding as a dream.

McAvoy, Dawson and Cassel form the three points of a volatile and erotically charged menage a trois, which culminates in breathtaking scene.