Sneak peek: Boyle falls into ‘Trance’ with thriller. For the first time, a Boyle film centers on a female heroine.
A fine-art auctioneer, in league with a gang of thieves, needs the help of a hypnotherapist to recover a lost painting.
Sounds like the setup for an old-fashioned caper film, such as Charade, Gambit or How to Steal a Million.
But given that the director of Trance is Danny Boyle, it is best not to jump to such conclusions. The Oscar-winning auteur behind Slumdog Millionaire rarely does anything conventional even if it’s a genre film.
As he says of the thriller, due out next year, “It begins like that. But it takes the idea of a stolen painting and develops into something sleeker and more psychological, with twists and turns.”
There also is a three-way love story that involves James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) as the amnesia-suffering auctioneer, Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Unstoppable) as the therapist and Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) as the gang leader.
“I wanted to do an updated noir, give it a contemporary spin in terms of emotion,” adds Boyle, determined to not reveal too much. “Noir is usually cold. I wanted it to be more emotionally charged. It’s the first time I put a woman at the heart of a movie.”
What Trance shares with some of Boyle’s other films, such as 1994’sShallow Grave, is characters who operate inside their own bubble. “Their only point of reference is to each other. There are no outsiders.”
One clue to what the movie holds in store can be found in the lost 18th-century painting in question: Goya’s Witches in the Air, a chilling portrait of a floating trio of pointy-hatted male witches apparently feasting on a victim.
Trance, partly inspired by a 2001 British TV movie, reunites Boyle with screenwriter John Hodge, who has written four of his nine features, including Trainspotting. It also is the first time since 2002’s28 Days Later that the director has filmed in London.
The locale was important since Boyle also was juggling a stage production of Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as well as overseeing the Summer Olympics’ opening ceremonies.
The key to putting on an entertaining show with the whole world watching is not unlike that of making a successful movie. “No one has ever tried to pace the ceremonies before,” Boyle says. “They have wonderful bits but are usually pretty boring. I tried to keep it at a fast tempo.”
He recently turned down a reward for his efforts during the Games — namely, knighthood and a chance to be known as Sir Danny. “Anyone who knows me knows that isn’t my cup of tea,” the British director says. “I find it embarrassing to be called Mr. Boyle.”