3. Shallow Grave (1994)
Shallow Grave was Danny Boyle’s scintillating feature-length debut and remains one of the most unique, accessible and rewatchable releases of the director’s long and storied career. Starring would-be stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston, and written by Boyle’s screenwriting collaborator John Hodge (Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach, Trance, T2 Trainspotting), Shallow Grave adopts a more traditional visual style than some of the director’s later releases, owing much of this to the technology of the time, gifting the staunch thriller a Hitchockian feel. Certainly more of a success critically and commercially in Boyle’s home country of the UK than in the US, Shallow Grave doesn’t seem like it’s for everyone, but the years have been kind to this particular Boyle offering, dictating that it should certainly be considered among the director’s very best.
2. Sunshine (2007)
Following the path of the great auteurs of the past, Boyle had to at some point tackle the science fiction genre, and in 2007 that’s exactly what we got with his divisive, twisted take Sunshine. This gloriously conceived, aesthetic masterpiece masterfully played upon the likely tensions and anxieties that would accompany space travel, offering seemingly one of the most realistic portrayals of would-be long-distance space exploration we’ve ever seen in English language cinema, establishing characters and their opposing philosophies/beliefs with their unified humanity in such a way that made Sunshine one of those films you just can’t turn away from. Starring a plethora of top names including 28 Days Later collaborator Cillian Murphy, a young Chris Evans, Benedict Wong, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh and Cliff Curtis, the scripted tensions melted into the visual splendour to offer one of the most complete Boyle offerings in his career thus far.
Many may have been taken aback by the film’s significant plot twist, the result of which divided many who saw it, but regardless of how public judgement fell upon the decision, it always did seem very in character for the director, Sunshine illustrating the best of what Boyle brings to contemporary cinema.
1. Trainspotting (1997)
Even in a career as storied and familiar as Danny Boyle’s, no film he has ever released has been quite as important to the contemporary zeitgeist as his 1997 surprise smash hit Trainspotting. Set sometime in late 80s Edinburgh, Trainspotting tackled drug and rave culture, establishing the impoverishment that drives young people to it, the film echoing the voices of those who had previously felt unheard. More than a movie, Trainspotting was a moment in time, a snapshot of culture and the feelings of the people, its quotability and all-time great soundtrack synchronising with Boyle’s increasingly elaborate means of visual storytelling. The piece had impact too, offering by far the most harrowing of Boyle’s visual horror and marrying this to the thrill of getting high in such a way that the movie’s ultimate message of desperation and a need for escapism remained front and centre. Trainspotting is Boyle at his most succinct and determined, and it is undeniably the best and most important release of his career. If you had to pick one film through which to see what Boyle is all about, it would be this one.
Boyle has long been a staple of British cinema and his next film, Yesterday, will tackle celebrity through the medium of The Beatles. Are you excited for it? What do you make of his career so far? What’s your favourite Danny Boyle film? Let us know in the comments below!