Shot before and edited after his triumphant Olympic opening ceremony, Trance is Danny Boyle’s first film since 2010’s 127 Hours.
But where that was a sinew-busting story of physical endurance, this is a cerebral parlour game where nothing is what it seems.
It reunites Boyle with John Hodge, his screenwriter on Shallow Grave and Trainspotting (among others).
With its pounding techno score, Chinese-box structure and designer interiors, Trance is altogether slicker – and a good deal tricksier – than those earlier career highs.
James McAvoy is Simon, a mild-mannered auction-house employee and the inside guy for a ruthless gang led by Vincent Cassel’s sharp-suited psycho, Franck.
Trouble is, the Goya painting they’re boosting has disappeared mid-theft – and Simon, who suffers amnesia after a blow to the head, has no idea where it’s gone. even ripping out his fingernails does little to sharpen his focus.
So the gang resorts to hypnosis, courtesy of Rosario Dawson’s Harley Street hypnotherapist Elizabeth, who soon wises up to Simon’s unique predicament.
Rather than dial 999, she wants in on the spoils... Inspired by Joe Ahearne’s 2001 British TV movie of the same name, it’s a tasty set-up that allows Boyle and Hodge to go all dream-within-a-dream on us as Doctor Dawson delves into Simon’s muddled mind.
Heavily indebted to the head-teasing puzzles of Christopher Nolan’s Memento and Inception, it’s here that Trance will put its strongest spell on you; although there’s more sleight-of-hand than there is a meeting of the Magic Circle.
From a Boyle standpoint, this is his most visceral and violent film since 28 Days Later..., powered briskly along by Cassel’s unpredictable menace.
Dawson also delivers – even though one gratuitous full-frontal shot threatens to overshadow an otherwise effective turn. Sadly McAvoy never entirely gets to grips with his role as nice-guy narrator – his Celtic accent leaving you wistful for the days of Ewan McGregor
in his pomp.
If there’s a problem with Trance, it’s that, like most dreams, its logic is flawed. How, for example, is the gang going to peddle a Goya? It’s never explained, and Boyle doesn’t seem too bothered, building to a heady crescendo of carnage, chaos and dreamy double-bluffs.
But if this sort of game-playing is your idea of a good night in, then settle back, count to 10 and let yourself drift off into Danny-land.