Danny Boyle is one of the more unpredictable directors working today, tackling different subject matters and genres with each new film. TRANCE returns him closer to the realm of his breakout hit TRAINSPOTTING, presenting a criminal thriller with visual panache.
TRANCE is definitely style over substance, which in this case works well for the material. Boyle makes a fairly bland and straightforward story more interesting with good actors and eye-popping flair—using various colors, filters, Dutch angles and reflections to create a visual puzzle worthy of a story about hypnosis. Plot-wise, TRANCE is a heist movie and a twisty mystery, as well as a modern take on an old school femme fatale noir. It doesn't balance those three genres completely successfully, however, thanks to a script that's not as clever as it thinks. Had the writing been stronger, particularly with the final twist, this might be a trippy new classic.
The story does feel a bit familiar to Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION, not just in the plot (though this is much more of an R-rated take) but how it treats the central technology. This is not a movie to learn about the practice and psychology of hypnosis. Instead TRANCE just accepts that hypnosis is powerful and works 100% every time, using it instead as a jumping off point for the story and an excuse to make the movie look as cool and hallucinatory as possible. (This might have one of the coolest scenes of gore in recent memory.)
Though the visuals are probably the most memorable aspect of the film, it doesn't overpower the character-based nature of the script. You realize halfway through that TRANCE essentially has three main characters and seemingly shifts between their points of view. James McAvoy plays the initial victim/hero, though there's also more to the villain that tortures him, played by Vincent Cassell. Rosario Dawson has probably the toughest role, for reasons that I don't want to give away. But she's probably the best part of the film, using a silent strength and her sexuality (including full frontal nudity!) to create a rather complex character. (More importantly, her hypnosis voice is nice to listen to.) It's clear that Boyle is most interested in her character though, which I think makes the film a bit awkward and uneven as the twists unravel.
Deleted Scenes (16:29): You get a few very brief scenes, mainly extended versions. You can tell Boyle cut them to make the film more vague and mysterious, which I think was the right way to go.
Power of Suggestion (33:59): A multi-part Making Of documentary covers everything from the film's long gestating history to the production (filmed during Boyle's tenure as director of the Olympic ceremonies) to the real practice of hypnosis to the importance of editing in a film like this. There's also interviews with cast and crew. Dawson calls her character "the scariest woman I've ever played.
Danny Boyle Retrospective (14:56): An interview with Boyle as he discusses his career so far.
EUGENE Short Film (13:07): I'm not sure why this is on here as it has nothing to do with TRANCE or Danny Boyle. It's a typical "genie in the bottle" story except with a magic laptop.
Trailers and Previews are also included.
TRANCE is a solid, trippy thriller, though I wish the script was clever enough to warrant the level of intrigue and style that Danny Boyle gave it.
Extra Tidbit: Boyle filmed the movie during his time with the 2012 Olympics, then came back to edit it nine months later.