‘Trance': Danny Boyle talks time-shifting art heist thriller

April 03, 2013 | 12:21 p.m.

Danny Boyle’s art heist thriller “Trance” is as much about the theft of a precious painting as it is a study of memory.

When a robber named Simon (James McAvoy) suffers a brain injury, he can’t remember where he hid the stolen masterpiece, so a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) helps him rewind his mind to an earlier time. Consequently, “Trance,” which opens Friday, rapidly shifts between the present and the past — sometimes so quickly the audience has to sort out whether it’s watching a memory or a current event.

“Einstein said that the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once,”  Boyle said Saturday at an early screening of “Trance” hosted by Hero Complex at WonderCon in Anaheim. “I think cinema is a complete contradiction of that — because the wonder of cinema is that everything can happen at once.”

The British filmmaker said that most of his movies follow the same basic plot — “someone faces insurmountable odds and overcomes them” — but that the tested individual in “Trance” is hard to initially identify because of the helter-skelter time shifts.

James McAvoy in "Trance." (Fox Searchlight)

James McAvoy in “Trance.” (Fox Searchlight)

“The only difference with this one is you can’t tell who that is at the beginning,” Boyle said.

Boyle’s two lead actors knew that their characters carried secrets that wouldn’t be revealed until “Trance’s” closing scenes, and labored to not tip their hands. But Boyle said that when he looked at a rough cut of the film after taking a hiatus to direct the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics, he realized the actors had left no clues at all to their pasts, which only confounded audiences.

So he recut the film, to “lay some bread crumbs,” so that moviegoers who want to watch “Trance” several times can see little clues popping up. When you see the movie for the first time, look for one thing: McAvoy’s knocking on things. It’s not a nervous habit.

To hear more of what Boyle had to say, watch the clip above, and check out his comments from another portion of the interview here.

– John Horn

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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