The emergent conventional wisdom is that Trance has a really dreadful script, and this is something I cannot manage to disagree with, though I think the degree to which it's been slammed is a bit exaggerated. Undoubtedly, it's silly as hell, and relies on twists that are plainly there more in the spirit of "did we just blow your fucking mind?" than because the story is inevitably heading that way, and its reveal of the true motivation behind everything that happened makes such a hash out of just about every character in the movie that it cannot possible be taken seriously. I don't know whether any of this is happens precisely the way it did in the 2001 telefilm by Joe Ahearne that this project remakes, or if new writer John Hodge and director Danny Boyle took it upon themselves to sexify their new project in the daftest way they could, and it mostly doesn't matter.

The other big problem, of course, is that the movie itself is such an overboiled slice of hokum, with its incredibly dimwitted psychology and patently implausible use of hypnotism as something akin to vampiric mind control, and to this I say: who cares? Movies that pridefully misrepresent hypnotism as being functionally magical are of ancient and respectable lineage, going back at least to 1922's Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, and it's not hardly like Trance is disguising what it's about to any particular degree. By the end of the first scene, Boyle has clearly established that he's not pursuing any kind of naturalist authenticity in this movie, instead looking to make a movie that thrives as pure cotton candy ephemera, an excessive spectacle that's all about sensory overload and not as much about deep, probing insight into the human condition. Ordinarily, I'd consider it my duty to belittle such shallow nonsense, but when a movie has the goods, it has the goods, and Trance certainly has that: on the level of raw craftsmanship and drunken style, it's Boyle's best film in a good long while, and he's nothing if not an excellent sensualist.

Nominally, the film is an art heist thriller, in which auction house employee Simon (James McAvoy) serves as inside man to help French thief Franck (Vincent Cassel) steal an enormously expensive Goya that Simon then absconds with. The problem is, he doesn't know why, or remember what he did with the thing: having suffered a blow to the head during the theft, his brain has gone a bit wonky, and he's developed a very localised form of amnesia. The only way around this seems to be hypnotherapy, which Franck arranges with a certain Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), who very quickly susses out what's really going on, and demands to be cut into the gang before she'll help out. Meanwhile, Simon falls in love with her, while continuing to keep the truth of what happened buried deep in his brain, and in short order we've got quite a nifty little stack of double crosses and Mexican stand-offs and nobody trust anyone else, while Simon can't even trust himself, as his ability to keep straight the real now, the remembered past, and the artificial fragments his brain is throwing out as a defense mechanism is in grave doubt.

It's pretty transparent while you're watching it that the crime thriller mechanics aren't of terrible interest to anybody: the writing is much more interested the disintegration of Simon's mental state, and the filmmaking is mostly about hyper-saturated blocks of solid neon colors and pulsing editing, and a really impressive soundscape consisting not only of some of the most whirling, satisfyingly Expressionist sound design I've heard in many months, but hard-driving music both original (composed by Rick Smith) and otherwise, that's as energetic and intoxicating as anything in Boyle's conspicuously music-fixated film career. Frankly, the film gets such mileage out of of its soundtrack, frequently expressiing the heightened moods of the piece more through aural means than by visuals or acting, that it's almost best to think of it as a sort of ecstatic sound collage that happens to be illustrated with Anthony Dod Mantle's splashy eye candy, rather than as a narrative film in any useful sense. That is, at any rate, the way that I found it to be most enjoyable.

And enjoyable it most unabashedly is. Nobody involved seems to be taking the film unnecessarily seriously, with the actors openly embracing the shallowness of their roles and playing up their basic archetypal characteristics in a way that manages to make a B-movie strength out of how ultimately frivolous all of this is (Cassel especially; I had high hopes for McAvoy and Boyle collaborating, but the actor is simply not precise enough in a role that is by narrative requirement devoid of real backstory or undercurrents to make more of an impression than the flashy cinema around him - maybe next time), and the behind-the-camera talent putting their skills to razzle-dazzle first and above all. But it is good razzle-dazzle; it is appealing to look at and damned intoxicating to listen to, and no matter how trashy the plot is, it is told with the extreme zeal of showmen who know that you can make anything plausible if you blitz through it with enough speed and energy that the audience doesn't get an opportunity to reflect on it. That's what all the twists and piled-on complications are about, really; keeping us constantly amused and distracted, so that the bravura nature of what's happening will be more delightful than its implausibility is irritating. Obviously, different people will have a different interest in this kind of thing, but I will readily admit that I was in exactly the right mood for this kind of gorgeously superficial junk food, and I am extremely happy that people this talented are still willing to make things this snazzy and entertaining.