The Films of Danny Boyle
Shallow Grave (November 14/16)
An almost astonishingly interminable thriller, Shallow Grave follows roommates Juliet Miller (Kerry Fox), David Stephens (Christopher Eccleston), and Alex Law (Ewan McGregor) as they agree to take in a fourth tenant (Keith Allen's Hugo) - with mistrust and paranoia setting in after said tenant dies and leaves behind a suitcase full of money. Filmmaker Danny Boyle's predictably kinetic visual sensibilities are immediately cancelled out by John Hodges' often ludicrously misguided screenplay, as the scripter offers up a trio of impossibly, almost impressively unlikable and unbelievable central characters - with, especially, McGregor's consistently obnoxious turn as the cartoonish Alex setting the viewer on edge virtually from the word go (ie he's the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard). It does, as such, go without saying that the viewer is completely and utterly unable to form a rooting interest in the protagonists' exploits, with this vibe compounded by the progressively laughable character arc of Eccleston's David - as the figure goes from mild-mannered accountant to sociopathic, unforgiving psychopath within the space of just a few scenes. It's exceedingly stupid stuff that drains the proceedings of any tension or suspense it might have had, and there's little doubt that Shallow Grave feels much, much longer than its 89 minutes (with the film's frenetic yet uninvolving third act dragging and plodding along before the inevitably downbeat conclusion rolls around). The fact that Shallow Grave is now considered something of a minor classic is nothing short of baffling (there's even a Criterion edition!), with the movie's perpetually underwhelming and tedious vibe making it impossible to engage, even partially, with the material from start to finish.
A Life Less Ordinary
Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise
28 Days Later...
Click here for review.
Sunshine (July 19/07)
Whatever faults there may be within Sunshine - and there are more than a few, admittedly - the film is ultimately redeemed by Alex Garland's complex, unpredictable screenplay and director Danny Boyle's expectedly flamboyant visuals. The story follows a group of astronauts - including Cillian Murphy's Capa, Cliff Curtis' Searle, and Rose Byrne's Cassie - as they're sent on a perilous mission to re-ignite the dying sun, with a particular focus on their subsequent efforts to overcome a series of problems and complications. There's little doubt that Sunshine immediately sets itself apart from the majority of its science-fiction brethren, as Boyle establishes an atmosphere that ultimately feels both familiar and alien at the same time. The storyline is chock-a-block with precisely the sort of crises that viewers have come to expect from films of this ilk - ie the ubiquitous revelation that the crew is running low on oxygen - and yet Boyle and Garland somehow manage to infuse such sequences with a wholly original sensibility that proves to be intoxicating. The uniformly superb cast brings an unprecedented amount of depth to even the simplest scenes; they're so good, in fact, that one can't help but wish that the film's second half contained less of an emphasis on action and violence (ie a few quieter, more introspective moments would've been welcome). And although the use of computer-generated effects does render more than a few sequences virtually unintelligible (Garland, likewise, relies on technobabble a little more often than one might've liked), Sunshine is, by and large, a mesmerizing and thoroughly captivating piece of work.
Slumdog Millionaire & 127 Hours
Click here and here for review.
Steve Jobs (December 2/15)
Based on Walter Isaacson's autobiography, Steve Jobs details the circumstances surrounding three key product launches in the title character's career: the Macintosh, the NeXT computer, and the iMac. It's perhaps not surprising to note, given that its screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin, that Steve Jobs suffers from a relentlessly verbose atmosphere, with Sorkin's unique (and always-recognizable) writing essentially resulting in a pervasive lack of authenticity to both the situations and the characters themselves (ie there's just never a point, in terms of the latter, at which the characters become more than mouthpieces for Sorkin's stylized dialogue). The viewer's efforts to embrace the slow-moving narrative fall hopelessly flat on an ongoing basis, with the inside-baseball approach to the material preventing one from embracing the characters and ensuring that certain sequences come off as dry and incomprehensible (including a seemingly endless technology meeting between Michael Fassbender's Jobs and Jeff Daniels' John Sculley). There's little doubt, too, that Sorkin's attempts at developing the fractured relationship between Jobs and his illegitimate daughter prove unsuccessful, to say the least, and it goes without saying that the emotional resonance of such moments, particularly towards the end, is virtually non-existent. It's ultimately the uniformly strong performances that prevent the viewer from checking out entirely, with Fassbender's often mesmerizing turn as the troubled protagonist mirrored by a strong supporting cast that includes Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Michael Stuhlbarg. The end result is a flat drama that works only as a showcase for several fine performances, which is disappointing, to be sure, given the dynamic and eventful nature of Jobs' life and career.