Following the 2012 London Olympics, Danny Boyle returns with a satisfyingly dark and twisted tale that keeps the audience guessing.

With his debut Shallow Grave and, especially, his breakout film Trainspotting, Boyle has shown an affinity to take gritty material and deliver something emotional and funny, all while being thoroughly entertaining. While his Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire and it’s follow up 127 Hours could be qualified as having their dark sides, it’s been quite some time since Boyle has really indulged in that side of himself. So, with that, it’s refreshing to see him return to the big screen with something that will stand among his best works.

A simple story on the surface, Trance is all about execution. Starring James McAvoy as Simon, the tale begins after he’s knocked unconscious during a heist at an art heist by Franck (Vincent Cassel). Franck doesn’t end up with the artwork he assumed he stole and once Simon’s released from the hospital, he forces him to remember what he did with it. Unfortunately, he can’t remember, owing to the bump on the head, and goes to see hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to recover his memory.

From there it’s a wild ride through the minds, memories and intentions of these characters. What at first seems straightforward soon becomes inconclusive as the layers are peeled back and the truth swirls around and around capturing everything in its path. Anchored by great performances by McAvoy and Cassel, Boyle and writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge keep the tension high as expectations are thwarted over and over again. Yet, as cerebral and confusing as the story can sometimes get, Boyle always keeps the film within his control and reigns it back in at the right moments.

If there’s anything dragging on screen it’s Dawson who seems completely miscast as Elizabeth. Fortunately, it’s not so dismal that it completely crashes the film but she seems unreasonably rigid as a hypnotherapist whose character is always coolly confident and composed. Her stiffness in the part contradicts the character completely but, again, not so much that it’s a detriment to her scenes or the film as a whole.

It isn’t the type of movie with some big underlying message, or something attempting to be grander than it is. Instead, it’s an extremely entertaining thriller with a clever script held together expertly by Boyle with all of the great music, editing and storytelling audiences have come to expect from the director.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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