Film review: Trance (15)

No one to trust in Boyle's heist-stakes game

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The Independent Culture

Danny Boyle's flashy new thriller begins with an art heist, set to a pulse- quickening techno score by one of his regular collaborators, Rick Smith of Underworld.

Fans of Boyle's debut film, the devious 1994 three-hander Shallow Grave, will immediately feel at home. The heist is an inside job facilitated by Simon (James McAvoy), an auctioneer with gambling debts. But things do not go according to plan: Simon sustains a head injury causing amnesia, and the film's McGuffin – a Goya painting – goes missing.

If the gang's leader Franck (Vincent Cassel) wants to discover the painting's whereabouts, he'll need sexy hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to coax her way into Simon's subconscious.

The action is bathed in neon light, filmed at surprising angles and in reflective surfaces. It unfolds according to a dream-state logic, and the narrative is at least as untrustworthy as its characters. It takes liberties with psychiatric medicine, and plays with ontological ideas about the self and free-will. But it is only playing.

When in this kind of form, Boyle could film an adaptation of the proverbial phone book and make it sexy and kinetic. If Trance has a problem, it's just that it is so shallow and slippery that we don't know who to root for.