I love a good mind-bender, but it’s getting more and more common to see thrillers that don't so much bend your mind as chop it, smash it, and stick it in the Cuisinart. "Trance," the new movie by Danny Boyle, director of "Trainspotting" and "Slumdog Millionaire," is a high-brainiac art-world thriller that wants to do nothing more or less than give your head a pleasurable spin.
James McAvoy stars as Simon, a young Scotsman who works at a fine-art auction house in London. He knows a lot about the history of the nude, but mostly he knows how to stave off an armed robbery. That's just what he has to do when a sleepy-eyed French gangster, played by Vincent Cassel, bursts onto the floor to steal the masterpiece that's being sold.
Boyle shoots the heist like a techno-pop musical number, which climaxes with Simon getting bashed on the head. It turns out that he was in on the job.
When Simon awakens from a coma, he has forgotten everything, including where he hid the painting. So he has sent to a hypnotherapist, played by Rosario Dawson, who specializes in recovering the memory of amnesia victims.
"Trance" is like a fusion of "Spellbound," "Inception" at its most convoluted, and the head-scratchingly half-baked identity games of "Vanilla Sky." Almost from the start, the movie is top-heavy with clues, subplots, flashbacks and hallucinations.
The story hinges on the whereabouts of the painting, but that turns out to be the most weightless of MacGuffins. The way that McAvoy, Cassel, and Dawson are all connected to each other never totally adds up.
The escalating "Huh?" factor may be related to the leaps made possible by digital editing. You get the feeling that Danny Boyle recut the footage so often, and in so many looped combinations, that he began to see links between images that no one in the audience would.
To avoid spoilers, I can't reveal a lot of what happens in "Trance." But the more the mystery gets "solved," the more it proves that there was never any there there to spoil.