Debuts Blogathon: Danny Boyle – Shallow Grave (1994)

Today is the penultimate day of the Debuts Blogathon, hosted by myself and Mark from Three Rows Back. Due to various complications and whatnot, we’ve ended up with an odd number of entries. As such, we’ve decided to both run the same piece today, a look at Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave by Shah from Blank Page Beatdown. Shah has a great looking site with a variety of reviews and features. Well worth your time! Over to you good sir…


Shallow Grave (1994)

Danny Boyle’s body of work is pretty varied and diverse. He is one of the few directors whom I cannot label a hack. Quentin Tarantino is a hack. Guy Ritchie is a hack. J. J. Abrahms, hack. I don’t mean this as an insult; those guys are some of my favorite directors. I just mean that most directors’ films will have some clear indications of the fact that it is their brand of cinema. This could be through style of cinematography (Tim Burton),  similar subject matter and content (Quentin Tarantino),  or unique technical execution such as a plethora of lens flares (J. J. Abrams) that will clearly identify the director of the movie. Whereas the complete opposite is true of Danny Boyle.

Probably the only director whose movies reveal nothing of the man behind the camera, as no two movies are alike in theme, tone, style or even genre. From zombie apocalypses to Bollywood extravaganzas to drug induced piles of awesome; there is nothing that Danny Boyle cannot direct, apparently.

The Debuts Blogathon has allowed me a chance to visit Boyle’s debut as a feature film Director in SHALLOW GRAVE, and compare it against his now famous repertoire of film. Even though TRAINSPOTTING launched Boyle (and others) into cult fanatic status, SHALLOW GRAVE is where he started his path of originality, and has stayed true to it ever since.

SHALLOW GRAVE is an easy story that goes places that requires little explanation. 3 friends have to come to grips with the death of a new roommate, while being transformed due to the discovery of a suitcase full of money with the body. It’s never explained who the man was, or why he had the money, but it doesn’t matter.

SHALLOW GRAVE stars Ewan McGregor in his first leading role as the jester with a heart of stone. Along with him is Christopher Eccleston, better known as (one of many) Dr. Who, who is amazing as a soft spoken bookish man, who’s traumatized by his experiences during the story. Eccleston steals the show, in my opinion, in a performance with great range and depth.

I say it’s an easy movie because the usual sequence of events don’t take place. There aren’t long drawn out moral conundrums about what to do with the money, or how to dispose of the dead body; they just do it and move on. What’s more interesting is the slow and steady transformation of mild mannered David played by Eccleston. The brutal actions he takes part in, almost compelled to do so by his so called friends, changes him dramatically. The movie focuses on the bonds of friendship, when tested under unusual circumstances and challenged by greed and selfish-ness.

While being his most mediocre film, it’s not difficult to see how this is Danny Boyle’s first film. The ‘wow factor’ isn’t really present until the 3rd act, in terms of the story. Boyle’s usual aesthetics seem amateurish, with topsy turvy camera work, even though it works for the story being told in this particular movie. Similar to how the raw-ness of the camera work worked for a story like 28 DAYS LATER. The Brit chemistry is on full display between the 3 main characters, just like TRAINSPOTTING, but to a lesser extent.


Like most Boyle fares, SHALLOW GRAVE does go deeper than what it gives you at face value. It goes to darker places while invoking emotion that bring you to the edge of the seat, at least in the final 10 minutes. The journey of the characters within the story follows the darkness exhibited by the lead in Boyle’s THE BEACH, however nowhere near as extreme. The one thing consistent with Boyle’s other movies is the downward spiral that the characters take throughout the film, and especially near the end, with intense consequences.

Danny Boyle has become one of my favorite directors despite, or in spite of, his completely out of the box style of filmmaking and interests. Every Danny Boyle movie looks nothing like the last Danny Boyle movie, which I think is more challenging than creating a trademark style evident in all of one’s films. SHALLOW GRAVE marked the beginning of an acclaimed career, and it’s not difficult to see in this film, how the talent behind the camera got more creative and stylistic over the years.

Tomorrow marks the last day of this blogathon, which sees me getting in on the act with my look at Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire whilst Mark will be taking a look at Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape. Don’t miss it!

Meanwhile, you can check out the rest of the entries in the Debuts Blogathon here.

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8 thoughts on “Debuts Blogathon: Danny Boyle – Shallow Grave (1994)

  1. Mark Walker says:

    Great write-up Shah! I’m a big fan Shallow Grave. It’s an excellent little debut that reminds me very much of the Coen’s Blood Simple.

  2. Great piece on a great film Shah! Thanks so much for getting involved buddy.

  3. ruth says:

    Aiyah, what a spoiler in that second pic! I haven’t seen this one yet but I generally appreciate Danny Boyle’s work.

  4. Nick Powell says:

    Love this movie. Such a solid debut from an incredible director.

  5. table9mutant says:

    Good review. I hated the last two Boyle films I saw so it’s good to be reminded of things like Shallow Grave, which I really liked.

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