There aren't many movie directors out there that have hit the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to pleasing fans and critics alike, while regularly producing consistent quality cinema. Not even the continually hyped Quentin Tarantino has shown such filmmaking mastery, or remained humble throughout, like Britain's own Danny Boyle.
Boyle, who began his directorial career in 1987, had worked a lot in television up until 1994, where he caught the attention of nations with this brilliant little movie. It didn't do amazingly well at the time when it came to making profits at the box office, but it was nowhere near a failure. In fact, it still kicks the arse off most modern attempts...
|It's all smiles and laughter until someone pisses in the Lambrini.|
That's it, in a nutshell, but this is no simple little movie, despite it's estimated budget of around £3 million. Shallow Grave is a perfectly crafted character study, psychological thriller and, despite its seeming lack in adventure, you'd be very surprised as to how much can go on in and around a four-bedroom apartment. You'd be even more surprised to learn that this movie took 30 days to film. That's right, Hollywood, you tired, bloated old hag.
Heading the cast are babyfaces Ewan McGregor as journalist Alex, Christopher Eccleston as accountant David, and Kerry Fox as Juliette (I can't remember what she does and IMDb is playin' possum), and despite them being so young at the time, they were excellent choices in actors at the time. In fact, it was almost as if Boyle knew they'd be huge names one day. But then you remember that they have Boyle to thank. But what really catches you about this unsuspected psycho-thriller is the perfect character dynamic. It's an ensemble cast, and thanks to the intelligent writing of Trainspotting and The Beach scribe, every single drop of talent is put to best use through the laughs and the absurd decadence, and then through the grudges and alliances that are born as the pressure builds and the honeymoon period dies off.
It comes down to the already sly natures of our flatmates. McGregor, as Alex, is a total dick. He's the friend you accept is a total dick, because he's a totally funny dick at the best of times. But that really doesn't help when the situation leads to the straight-laced one of the group (repressed accountant David) ends up being the one that has to dismember the dead drug dealer's body, as Alex and Juliette look on and think of how they're going to spend their portion of the suitcase. With Juliette being so often split down the middle to appease everybody, that leads David to become ever more alienated from the others, until he goes loopy and decides to live in the loft with the money; drilling holes in the ceiling so he can keep tabs on everybody.
|"Ha! Alienated. It's not like I'm Dr Who, or anything..."|
With David going full-on Norman Bates, the rattled Alex and Juliette hatch a plan to grab the money and get the fuck outta dodge, but how do you do that when your every move is being watched? The movie twists and turns its way to its finale like a modern day Hitchcock thriller and like hell am I going to spoil that for you!
The New York Times tried to sell this to the Pulp Fiction fans of the day. I don't know why, as there's no resemblance, apart from the fact that both of them are two great revolutionary films of their time. It probably didn't do Boyle many favours, though, as it would be another half a decade before the US started to pay attention. Regardless, this didn't just see the beginnings of many stars in the making, it gave us the means to witness the birth of more realistic, original eye-opening filmmaking that engages the audience. That, coupled with colourful and contrasting cinematography that reminds me of Johnnie To thrillers, just better written and planned out.
Thanks again for reading, feel free to comment on your favourite Shallow Grave and Danny Boyle moments, and be sure to join us again next month as we head into June of each awesome decade in geek movie history!