Not literally, of course. Today, I'd like to take a good look at one of today's most interesting directors: you know him as the director of:
28 Days Later...
A Life Less Ordinary
I'd like to think that enough of his films are iconic and well-seen enough for y'all to be able to follow along here, but you never know. For my part, I've seen all of them but A Life Less Ordinary and Shallow Grave, and I feel you can categorize them, quality-wise, in the following groups:
Out-and-out masterpieces, or as close as Boyle has gotten: 28 Days Later, Sunshine
Enjoyable, proficient, and (generally) good: Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting
Admirable Misfire: Millions
Just plain bad: The Beach
From what I hear, Shallow Grave finds itself in either the "enjoyable" or the "misfire" category, while A Life Less Ordinary drifts between "misfire" and "bad."
Danny Boyle's career has had a strange metamorphosis. With his debut film, Shallow Grave, Boyle earned accolades similar to Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs debut: some called it uneven, some called it a masterpiece, everyone agreed that this was a new director to watch. Boyle didn't disappoint with his follow-up, Trainspotting; though I may not love it as much as the next guy, the general consensus is that it's a modern masterpiece, and a classic of the new film movement. After having established himself as a competent director and an auteur of sorts, Danny Boyle then chose to throw it all away. His next two projects, The Beach and A Life Less Ordinary were large, messy studio productions, obviously aiming to please the most middling denominator. From here, Boyle learned his lesson: his next films, instead of attempting to be all things to all people, became very small, specific riffs on genre. He reinvented zombie horror with 28 Days Later, then mish-mashed inspirational family films with religious satire in Millions, had the gall to attempt "hard" science fiction in a post-2001 universe with Sunshine, and then took on the rags-to-riches tale with Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle has obviously hit his stride with this new career renaissance: one can only assume that he will continue his string of successes.
I find this Danny Boyle quote to be quite indicative of his style:
"...I like films that have a kind of vivacity to them. At this time of year you think about awards, and if you want to win one, you think you should make serious films, but my instinct is to make vivacious films." If there's one word to describe Boyle's films, it's vivacious. No director today makes use of such hyper-kinetic camera blocking. I don't mean this in a derogatory sense. Boyle is always supremely in control of his art, allowing the motion of the camera to enhance the motion of the film, all while knowing when to pause for breath and make use of uninterrupted takes and long shots. Most writers would hold up Slumdog Millionaire as the seminal example of Boyle's visual style, but I must dissent and suggest 28 Days Later instead. Slumdog is, indeed, full of motion and energy, but 28 Days Later has a propensity for tranquility that can be found liberally in Boyle's other films (most notably Sunshine and Millions) that is, on the whole, missing from Slumdog.
Boyle's style is made memorable through its motion, but I'd like to take a moment to think about the color schemes and impressionistic touches. Sunshine has the most easily defined color scheme (hint: everything is either orange or black, with brief sojourns for green), no doubt due to its single location (...space). Notice Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, and Millions, however: Slumdog works mostly with shades of brown, orange and red, 28 Day Later is always muted, as if everything is lit by blue or gray shades, and Millions is open and friendly, full of primary colors, which is no doubt reflective of the worldview of its child protagonist. In my opinion, the color work is far more effective in creating and establishing a stylistic mood, regardless of the flashiness of the color-work.
Thematically, Danny Boyle is a bit more difficult to pin down. Here's another quote for you to ponder: "I want my films to be life-affirming...I want people to leave the cinema feeling that something's been confirmed for them about life." I can't say that he always succeeds: the false, happy ending tacked on to the end of The Beach did far more to lower my opinion of humanity than leaving the film blood-soaked and angry like it should have been. So it goes. I suppose, however, the point may not be in the end. Most of Boyle's films seemed singularly concerned with the audacity of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity. Consider 28 Days Later: the end is not particularly inspiring. Focus instead, if you will, on the relationship between Frank and Hannah: a father who loves his daughter, doing his best to keep her safe. Or even Jim and Selena: despite everything happening around them, two people can fall in love and teach each other something about kindness. Now look at Sunshine: not the sunniest of endings (...I'm sorry, I had to) by any stretch of the imagination. What sticks out in my mind, however, is the selflessness shown by most of the crew. Sunshine plays for me like a parable for losing oneself in the drive to help the greater good, even at the expense of one's safety or one's life. And I certainly don't need to explain to you how Slumdog Millionaire relates to pushing on through adverse odds (seriously, does anyone think Jamal and Latika will actually work as a couple? At the end, after the dance, they walk out of the station, and I can't help but picturing Latika looking at Jamal and saying "...so what now?" After some sex and some very courageous shenanigans resulting in bringing about the destiny of two hungry stomachs and one very confused pizza, they're going to realize that the chase was far more interesting than the destination. Sorry, I digress). So, perhaps it is easy to define Boyle's main thematic conceit: his films concern the drive to move forward despite the desire to go back.
What's next for Danny Boyle? IMDB won't let me have a good look, but it seems his next project is called 127 Hours. I wish I could provide more details, but, as stated, IMDB tells me I'm not nearly important enough to look at its "in development" projects. Oh well. Some day, internet, some day. For now, however: what do you think of Danny Boyle? Worth all these wasted pixels or not? If you've seen some of his movies, go ahead and post your ranking of them in the comments. My ranking is as follows:
28 Days Later
Where am I wrong?