© 2023 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

'Trance': Not Danny Boyle's Best Work


The director Danny Boyle is best known for the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire." His latest film is called "Trance," but Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan was not put under its spell.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Trance" begins with the auction of a painting by Goya.


JAMES MCAVOY: (As Simon) Telephone bidder now, 26 million, 26 on the telephone; 27 to the lady on the aisle. Selling for 27,500,000 pounds. (Pounds gavel) Sold!

TURAN: And then, it's stolen. Auction house employee Simon, played by James McAvoy, is part of the robbery gang. But Simon gets hit in the head and when he awakes, he can't remember where he's stashed the masterpiece. If this frustrates Simon, it infuriates Franck, the impatient head of the robbery gang. Franck insists that Simon go to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb, played by Rosario Dawson.


ROSARIO DAWSON: (As Elizabeth) So I'd like you to close your eyes and imagine you're in an elevator, a wide elevator with velvet walls and thick carpets. And as the doors close, your eyelids become heavier...

TURAN: Elizabeth intuits that Simon is in some kind of trouble, and that the stolen Goya is involved. If she's going to help Simon recover his memory, she insists she should get a cut of the loot. We keep secrets from ourselves, she says enigmatically, and call it forgetting.

It's at this point that "Trance's" plot really gets started - though you end up wishing it hadn't, for that promising premise delivers nothing but frustration and dismay. We're shown both Simon's reality and what he imagines when he's in a trance, and it's impossible to tell them apart. And the film's overall coldness means that there isn't anybody you care to identify with, or any outcome you want to see.

Filmmaker Boyle finished this film after his work on the London Olympics feel-good Opening Ceremony. He told one interviewer that all the dark stuff he couldn't put into the Olympics, ended up here. That transference clearly made him feel better, but it's going to make audiences feel a whole lot worse.

GREENE: That's Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for the Los Angeles Times, and for MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.