Director Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) signed on to helm Trance at the same time that he started work on 127 Hours, the James Franco movie about a rock climber who has to cut off his own arm in order to free himself from the boulder that has lodged between him and a canyon wall. For Boyle, Trance, which opens areawide on Friday, offered a nice break from more serious subject matter.
“Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours have serious redemptive themes,” he says. “We wanted to make a thriller for fun. We wanted to make a mind-bending bit of fun where the deliciousness of the thriller genre and subgenres are rolled together. We were involved with the Olympics over a long period, which is an important responsibility. It’s a national celebration and family friendly. It’s nice to go to the dark side and deliver a film in which the woman is the ingénue. I’ve never done that. The idea of trance in a movie was appealing, too. It’s lovely that all movies are like that to a degree and this movie has trances within trances.”
Trance stars James McAvoy as Simon, a thief who can’t remember where he put a stolen painting. He seeks the help of a beautiful therapist (Rosario Dawson) as he attempts to retrace his steps and find it before his crime lord boss (Vincent Cassel) has him killed. The film is a bit of a departure for McAvoy, too.
“He is the perfect narrator early on,” Boyle says. “He has a voiceover and looks in the camera and builds a relationship with you, but turns out to be the most unreliable narrator. He goes on a huge journey and discovers himself. Rosario Dawson of course looks like a professional bystander who is brought in to advise. She played that role in Unstoppable. She’s brought in to provide a bit of authority. She turns out to be in the engine room.”
Much like Inception, Christopher Nolan’s heady 2010 thriller, Trance blurs the line between reality and perception. By the film’s end, however, it’s possible to create a linear narrative.
“You’re messing with someone’s perception and reducing the differential between illusion and reality for the characters and also for the audience,” says Boyle. “We had a chronology and if you saw it in chronological order, it makes absolute sense. You disguise where you’re trying to make sure people don’t get ahead of you. You have these two forces. You want to make sure there is something there. It can be as simple as a look that you don’t understand at the time. But if you went back and watched it again, you would understand what that look meant. In this case, we made every decision with an eye on seducing you as if you’re in a chair being worked on.”