I went out to the cinema and saw Slumdog Millionare yesterday with a friend of mine. I was impressed with the movie. I’m not sure if it’s “Best Picture” good (which it looks like it will indeed win), but it’s very good. I was fully prepared for the Visual style and cinematography, I’ve seen quite a few Danny Boyle movies before. He isn’t my favorite director; as far as modern directors go however, he’s in my Top 10 (perhaps even Top 5). [Excuse me while I quickly read Freakangels Episode 44] Kk. The lives of the homeless in post-Apocalypse England. Cholera in the water, babies starving, EVERYONE starving. I was thinking about Danny Boyle during, and after, the movie yesterday. The guy’s got an eye that much is clear. As tough as it is for me; I’m here to rank the Danny Boyle films I’ve seen. First of all, I have NOT seen: Shallow Grave (1995), A Life Less Ordinary (1997), and Alien Love Triangle (2002). I’ve seen all his other big-screen, feature films though (I’d be interested in seeing some of his TV stuff). So here we go…
#6 – The Beach (2000). I don’t dislike The Beach at all. It provides some unique perspectives on the “deserted island in the Sun” theory. DiCaprio was young, but it marked the dude’s return to serious cinema (Woody Allen’s Celebrity included, that’s as much a Woody Allen movie as DiCaprio is Brando). He was great in it. As was everyone else; Robert Carlyle and Tilda Swinton impressed me. The Visuals of the film are captivating, but not in a truly Danny Boyle sense. If Boyle and the cinematographer need to infuse a video-game effect, apparently inspired by the game Banjo Kazooee, to enact any form of Visual creativity that’s too bad. I like that scene, I’d just like to see that same creativity put into the whole film, in a more regular and subtle manner. The script is solid; I, without a doubt, know that it captured the spirit of the original Alex Garland novel. I would have liked to have seen Ewan McGreggor as Richard though. Somehow I feel like Boyle was holding back on this one a bit (the hotel room scene with Carlyle going nuts notwithstanding).
#5 – Millions (2004). This 2002 movie, which featured no really well known actors, is the childhood fantasy of many brought to life and presented in a lovely package. The movie is disturbing, philosophical, playful, and inspiring all at the same time. The acting is excellent, with the exception of a bit of over-acting by one or two of the antagonists in the film. This could be refuted though with the argument that the “bad guys” (the men seeking the millions of pounds the boys find) are seen through the eyes of the boys and therefor more overreaching and maniacal than they actually are. The movie looks excellent. And the story is intriguing and thoughtful. My one complaint with this movie is that it feels a bit too manipulated by its creators. The writers, the D.P., even Boyle himself, all feel as if they’re over our shoulders watching the film with us. Making sure they’re no slip-ups of any kind rather than crafting a story, hiring actors, and letting the entire thing speak for itself. Millions is a powerful enough idea on its own to let it speak for itself.
#4 – Sunshine (2007). The only part of this film which holds it back from… maybe not greatness, but certainly it being a favorite flick of mine, is the last third. Up until that crucial turning point in the film, where Alex Garland’s taste for horror is appeased (apparently it wasn’t totally with 28 Days Later), Sunshine is nearly flawless; at least flawless in the silver screen Sci-Fi sense. Visually, this is perhaps Danny Boyle’s most stunning movie. The scenes which take place outside the comfortable confines of the “Icarus” (arguably one of the characters of the film, the SHIP), are breathtaking in their overwhelming power, all which human beings could never contain. The power of the Sun is on full display here. As scary as beautiful. When one of the characters gets stuck at a point where he’s no longer shielded by the Icarus, and the Sunlight is rolling around the corner, the fantasy of ever going into space leaves us. These are powers of the universe we can scarcely control, even fathom. Which is why the script turn towards the latter half is so confusing to me. I see what it’s trying to do: somehow pull religion, spirituality, Death, into a Science based movie. But these things are already in the back of the viewers mind while they watch the Sunlight utterly destroy everything in its path, and frankly they’re far more scary there than in front of us in some pseudo space horror.
#3 – Sulmdog Millionare (2008). What can I say about this movie that I haven’t already mentioned? A few things, I guess. First of all, this film is cementing Danny Boyle, and his cinematographer, as having one of the most unique visual styles in modern cinema. Sulmdog doesn’t perfect this style, but it does refine it for the masses without being too hard to grasp. To me, this should win “Best Cinematography” before it wins “Best Picture”. It is retaining a 94% on the Tomato Meter, and deservedly so. Out of all these films, this is Danny Boyle’s most accessible movie. The key is the fact that it still maintains quite a bit of artistic integrity along the way. The acting is off the charts, especially the younger versions of Lakita, Salim, and Jamal. Those kids were unbelievable. In typical Boyle fashion, we’re taken to two places I’d thought he’d never take us: to the slums of Mumbai and all around India, and to the Romance Film. Make no mistake, this is a film about love and those who love. Yes, it’s also about poverty, religion, wealth, crime, the corrupt, the powerful, but it’s main theme is love. Kudos to all the writers for one hell of a clever script as well.
#2 – Trainspotting (1996). Yet another Danny Boyle movie based on a novel, Trainspotting was a charming MAJOR debut for a director with a unique take on making movies. It’s hard to believe the movie is over 10 years old now, but whenever I go back and watch it that all makes sense. Alot of credit should be given to Irvine Welsh, who’s an amazing writer. His writing style lends itself wonderfully to the type of film Boyle wanted to make. A perfect match. This was the last time McGreggor lended his talents to a Danny Boyle movie, and apparently it might be his last. I don’t know how true this is, but on IMDB they’re reporting that McGreggor wanted the “Richard” role in The Beach, and when he heard it was going to DiCaprio he stopped even talking to Danny Boyle. McGreggor and everyone else are great though. I loved the performance Ewen Bremner put out as “Spud”. Here we’re seeing what Boyle would become with the “Worst Toilet in Scotland”, withdrawals in the bed, and overdose scenes. But the only reason I don’t think this is Boyle’s best film is because he hadn’t had a chance to really come into his own yet as a filmmaker.
#1 – 28 Days Later… (2002) . Was it any big fucking surprise that I’d pick the zombie flick as my favorite Boyle film? It shouldn’t have been. Look over at that list of Tags, look how big the word “Zombies” is over there. Still though, even if I weren’t such a zombie nerd it’s likely I’d still think this was the best film Danny Boyle’s ever created. In Days he nails everything right on the head. The pacing is brilliant in it’s starts and stops. Just when we get comfortable, or run to piss or grab beer or popcorn, BOOM! The look of the film is completely stunning. I actually think in this film Boyle held back a little visually. Reason being (if I had to guess), the subject matter of the film is already intense enough to begin with, we don’t need to many Boyle-esque shots to be hit hard here. The opening scenes, with Jim walking around a totally abandoned London is enough to make anyone wipe their eyes in “Did they just do that? Is this real?” mode. And they did. They closed down the streets and certain times in the day, got their shots, and got out. If this film has any flaws (it does, EVERY film does), it’s the ending. In the Special Edition DVD Boyle narrates through a possible, un-filmed, ending we may have seen, and it would have been way better. But if Dawn of the Dead taught us anything, it’s that the happy ending typically wins out, and that sometimes it doesn’t completely break a movie.