Danny Boyle is obviously having a ball with this thriller, deploying every cinematic trick he can think of to throw the audience off the track. But sometimes too much of a good thing is annoying. And while this film holds our interest, it also reveals early on that we simply can't trust anything we see on-screen. So while it's expertly shot and edited, and the actors make the most of their shifty characters, it's not easy to just sit back and enjoy the show.
McAvoy stars as Simon, an auctioneer presiding over the sale of a £30 million Goya painting, which promptly goes missing after an elaborate heist. Simon suffers a head injury in the assault, and can't remember anything, which is a problem when it turns out that he was working with criminal mastermind Franck (Cassel). Now Franck and his goons (Sapani, Cross and Sheikh) want to know where the painting is, so they enlist hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Dawson) to help Simon recover his memory using a series of unconventional methods. But she wants her share of the cash.
Yes, the further they travel into Simon's mind, the stranger things get. McAvoy has little to do here but look dazed in between moments of lucidity that generally spark something horribly violent. Opposite his understated performance, Cassel can hardly help but be a lot flashier as a menacing charmer. And Dawson has a fierce presence as a woman who quickly takes control of every situation she's in. Although Dawson also has to contend with a couple of leery nude scenes that go further than what was strictly necessary.
Still, the film looks amazing, with an energetic, muscly tone that plays with glassy, reflective surfaces to remind us of the fragmented reality that underpins the narrative. We're able to figure out a couple of key plot points long before they're revealed, but a continual stream of twists and turns surprise us and keep us confused. And in the end it's difficult to escape the feeling that the entire story is unravelling rather than coming together into something meaningful. Fortunately, it's so mesmerising that we don't really mind.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 27th March 2013
Box Office USA: $2.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $24M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Pathé, Cloud Eight Films, Decibel Films, Film4
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 113 Rotten: 54
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Danny Boyle
Screenwriter: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Starring: James McAvoy as Simon, Vincent Cassel as Franck, Rosario Dawson as Elizabeth, Matt Cross as Dominic, Danny Sapani as Nate, Tuppence Middleton as Young Woman, Lee Nicholas Harris as Paramedic, Sam Creed as Dj, Hamza Jeetooa as MRI Technician, Ben Cura as New Client, Kelvin Wise as Fireman, Simon Kunz as Surgeon, Wahab Sheikh as Riz, Mark Poltimore as Francis Lemaitre