Tag Archives: danny boyle

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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Film Review: Trance

TranceWhen Danny Boyle was announced as the creative director for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, there was a fair amount of WTF-ing, but he managed to turn something no-one really cares about into something really quite impressive. Of course to us film fans, Danny Boyle is pretty well known but this brought the diminutive Mancunian attention on a truly global scale, even more so than his 2009 Oscar win for Slumdog Millionaire. And what better advert for his first film since the Olympics, Trance?

Simon (James McAvoy) is an art auctioneer who gets involved with a Franck (Vincent Cassel), a criminal who has agreed to wipe his gambling debts in exchange for helping to steal a hugely valuable painting. However, when Simon gets hit on the head and can’t remember the location of the painting, he seeks the help of hypnotist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help him remember.

Trance does an excellent job of keeping you hooked throughout. It’s pretty perfectly paced and is neither a minute too long nor too short. However, it’s a film that had very little lasting impact for me. I was entertained for the 100 odd minutes the film was on, but almost as soon as the credits rolled, I felt somewhat indifferent to the whole thing. It plays out like a pretty standard heist flick for part of the film but when Elizabeth gets thrown into the mix, it becomes much more cerebral with nods to films such as Inception without ever displaying the style or the substance of Christopher Nolan’s film.

It ticks along at a fair old pace, which constantly keeps you glued to the screen but, much like Soderbergh’s Side Effects, when it comes to twists, turns and double bluffs, there are just too many in too short a time and the whole thing starts to feel a little brain bending. This is no doubt the point, but it doesn’t really give you the opportunity to fully make sense of things before the end of the film.

One area where Trance does excel is in its aesthetics. It looks superb, which is something we’ve come to expect from Boyle’s films. Each one of his films has a distinct visual style and Trance is no exception. From dark and grimey underground settings to spectacularly lit nighttime vistas, Trance is visually very impressive, but it does feel like Boyle is papering over the cracks a little. For example, his constant use of canted camera angles to give the film a dream-like quality is less than subtle and becomes a little distracting.

All of the actors do a decent enough job, but none are particularly exemplary. James McAvoy is fine and does nothing wrong, whilst Vincent Cassel could be replaced with just about any other actor; his talents simply aren’t put to the test here. Rosario Dawson probably comes out of this with the most credit, but the script still doesn’t really allow her to stretch herself as perhaps it could.

Trance is by no means a bad film. It’s fun and frenetic, but it’s also largely forgettable, which is not a criticism often attached to Boyle’s films. It’s a film that definitely deserves a place in the director’s filmography but, unfortunately, doesn’t come close to troubling those at the top.

3 and a half pigeons

3.5/5 pigeons

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