What I heard Easy Rider was to the sixties and Saturday Night Fever to the seventies, Trainspotting was the movie that personified the nineties. It was alive with character. There wasn’t so much a plot as a series of stories about a group of scheming hedonists who did a lot of drugs and listened to great music. As simple as it sounds the director Danny Boyle never reached such heights again.
Boyle’s gotten the closest when he worked with the writer Alex Garland. With The Beach, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine they skipped from genre to genre from coming of age to zombie splatterfest to sci-fi, but you could always count on a moody, likable protagonist who took us on an exciting ride.
The director’s newest movie Trance starts off following that formula enough so it seems like Garland might have ghostwritten it. James McAvoy plays a likable cad who works for an auction house. When thugs come in to steal a 25 million dollar Goya painting McAvoy tries to be a hero and gets his noggin cracked as a reward. McAvoy wakes up in the hospital with amnesia, a sexy hypnotist is brought in and the story falls apart like one of those houses of cards.
Boyle can direct the hell out of a movie. He brings a creative energy to every frame so that each scene includes a shot you have never seen before, but he’s betrayed by a plot that isn’t half as clever as it needs to be. The shame of Trance is that the main characters and the actors who portray them are intriguing enough that the movie didn’t need to twist itself into pretzels to try to catch us off guard.
Much like Inception did a couple years ago, Trance tries to play around with the notion of what in our memories might be real and what isn’t. It’s a debate often had after ingesting psychedelic drugs, but I would have rather watched the characters of Trainspotting have that stoned debate, then the final sloppy thirty minutes of Trance.