Danny Boyle (Britain, 1956) started out in theater and television.
His first film,
Shallow Grave (1994), may seem merely like a modern variation on Alfred
Hitchcock's gruesome and intricate thrillers, but it is a powerful one.
The slightly neurotic and deliberately sloppy directing style adds to the
tension. The most impressive quality of the film is how
the personality of the three protagonists is slowly twisted. Each of them
undergoes a smooth metamorphosis towards a different persona
(from shy follower to evil calculator, from cruel torturer to terrified
victim, from sophisticated eccentric to defenseless "girl next door"),
a metamorphosis that continues until the very end, when each is revealed
to be something else yet again.
The situation itself mutates slowly and smoothly, from a macabre joke
to a deadly scheme to a psychological nightmare to a philosophical tale.
The film opens with the face of the protagonist that rotates as we hear his
stream of consciousness. Then we see the road as seen by a car that is moving
at high speed. That would be the car of a young man, Cameron, who is going for an
interview with his prospective new housemates: Alex, David and Juliet.
He is one of the many victims of their favorite passtime: psychological
torture and humiliate the people who come for the interview.
The trio eventually selects Hugo, a sophisticated writer who survives
one of their cruel evenings. Over dinner, asked if he ever killed anyone,
he answers "no" but we see the scene of a man brutally murdered by two
youngsters at an automatic teller machine, and the scene is shot from inside
Hugo moves in with just two suitcases.
The following day they find him dead in his room. Under the bed Alex finds
a suitcase full of money and he convinces the others to keep it.
They decide to dispose of the body by burying it in the forest, and David,
the shy one, has to cut the hands (to avoid identification by fingerprints).
The rotating face of the beginning is David after the shocking experience.
The trio also disposes of Hugo's car by dumping it into a lake.
While we witness the almost comic clumsiness of the trio, we see another
scene in which the same two gangsters of the ATM episode are killing a man
by drowning him into a bath tub.
David works in a financial office. Juliet works in a hospital. Alex is an
aspiring reporter at a newspaper. But mostly we see them in the house.
Alex and Juliet tend to behave like a couple. David is asocial, lonely,
The trio spends an evening at a formal club and sees Cameron who works there
selling flowers. Alex makes fun of him. Later, Alex is cornered by Cameron
and his friends in the restrooms and Cameron breaks his nose.
In parallel we see the two gangsters torturing another man and locking him
into a trunk to asphyxiate to death.
Back to the house, where the phone keeps ringing, Alex and Juliet go on
a spending spree. When he finds out, David, the rational business man of the
trio, is upset because those goods may "cost" them a lot more than just money.
In fact, we see that someone has found Hugo's car in the lake.
After someone breaks into an apartment of the same building,
David becomes paranoid and decides to hide the suitcase in the loft.
He is right: one day the two gangsters break into their apartment and
torture Alex. Alex tells them that the suitcase is in the loft. David
is up there guarding his little treasure and manages to kill both gangsters.
Then the trio, once again, buries the corpses in the forest.
David, who used to be the quiet one, is now barricaded upstairs and
uncontrollable, and his cold, cynical behavior terrifies even Alex.
David even drills holes in the ceiling to spy on his housemates.
Juliet is planning an escape to Brazil.
One day the police show up. Only David is home. The police insists that
four people live in the apartment, David insists only three live there.
Alex and Juliet plot to steal the money, but Alex does not find the money
in the loft. On the other hand, David catches them in the act, leaving
them even more terrified of him.
By coincidence, one day Alex's boss tells Alex that he has to cover the story
of three decomposing corpses found in the forest: those are "their" corpses.
In the meantime, Juliet switching allegiance and is giving herself to David.
The police, who have noticed Alex's scared behavior at the forest, come back
to interview first Juliet and then Alex. They show them the pictures of the
three men. When Alex replies that he has never seen them, they tell him that
the car of two of them was found parked in front of the apartment building.
David is listening to everything from the loft thanks to the holes he drilled
through the ceiling.
Alex is ready to call the police and turn himself in. But David decides to
leave with the money. Juliet confronts him. David shows her the ticket she
bought for herself for Brazil. Alex defends her, telling David that he bought
the ticket, and one for himself as well. Alex seems to wish that David just
left with the money. But Juliet is determined not to let him go. David
hits her and the three start fighting. David pins Alex down and then pushes
a knife through Alex's shoulder and through the floor. David is about to
finish off Alex, but Juliet stabs him in the back. Despite the pain, Alex
smiles, but Juliet has other plans: she takes her shoe off and hits the knife
that is nailing Alex down to the floor, to make sure Alex can't run after her.
Then she grabs the suitcase and runs. Alex dies, but we see him grinning
at the police inspector while the coroner is taking pictures of his corpse.
Next we see Juliet screaming in the car: she opened the suitcase and found
only worthless paper. Someone took the money. No matter how dead he is,
Alex is still grinning: he took the money and hid it under the floor, not
knowing that he would die nailed to that very floor, not knowing that the
killer would be the very Juliet that he still loved and planned to save.
Juliet takes off anyway for Brazil.
The last image is the same as the beginning: the face of David. He is
meditating about friendship: after all, he did believe in friendship,
but he felt betrayed by both his housemates.
And now we realize why it is not moving: it is his face before they close
his coffin at the morgue.
If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.
Scroll down for recent reviews in english.
Trainspotting (1996), tratto da un romanzo di Irvine Welsh di tre anni
prima gia` diventato un dramma teatrale,
Mark racconta la sua vita di eroinomane e ladruncolo.
Il film comincia con la prima di molte fughe: Mark inseguito dalla polizia
quasi finisce sotto le ruote di un'auto.
Mark condivide un appartamento con Sick Boy, Spud e Allison, la ragazza di
tutti e tre (non e` chiaro di chi sia la sua bambina). Sono tutti
tossicodipendenti e tutti decisi a non trovare lavoro.
In realta` Mark ha deciso di smettere e vuole soltanto comprare un'ultima dose.
In una discoteca incontra Diane e, imbottiti di droga, fanno l'amore, ma il
giorno dopo Mark scopre che e` minorenne. Lui non vorrebbe piu` rivederla
ma lei minaccia di denunciarlo alla polizia se la scaccia.
Mark ha ripreso gli amici Tommy e Lizzie (gli unici che non prendono droghe)
mentre facevano l'amore e, quando Lizzie lo scopre, lascia Tommy pensando
che lo abbia fatto lui per venderlo.
Mark torna a drogarsi all'impazzata e a compiere piccoli furti con l'amico
Mark racconta come si procurano droghe di tutti i tipi, rubando persino la
morfina agli anziani dell'ospizio.
Tommy, demoralizzato dalla partenza di Lizzie, si fa dare un po' di eroina da
Finalmente la tragedia colpisce. Il bebe` di Alison muore.
La ragazza strilla come un ossessa mentre tutti i ragazzi sono drogati.
Mark e Spud vengono arrestati per furto e il giudice condanna l'ingenuo Spud
ma concede al furbo Mark la liberta` condizionata.
Dopo l'ennesima dose, gli amici lo portano moribondo in taxi all'ospedale.
I genitori lo chiudono a chiave in camera e Mark viene colto da incubi in cui
vede scorrere le immagini del suo passato,
dalla bambina morta al giudice che lo condanna.
Mark ne ha abbastanza di quella vita e decide di partire per Londra. Trova
lavoro e comincia una nuova vita. Ma dura poco: prima Begbie, inseguito
dalla polizia, e poi Sick Boy, interessato a fare il protettore, si
installano nel suo appartamento.
Mark non tollera le loro maniera, in particolare quelle di
Begbie, che quasi lo accoltella quando torna a casa furibondo perche' stava
facendo l'amore con un travestito.
Non fidandosi di loro, lascia il passaporto in un locker.
Tornano a casa per i funerali di Tommy, morto di AIDS.
Spud e` uscito dal carcere e lo portano con loro a Londra, dove vendono
la droga che Begbie ha comprato da un marinaio.
Nel pub in cui stanno festeggiando, Begbie ha un alterco con un altro avventore
e gli taglia la faccia con un pezzo di vetro. Mark non ne puo` piu`.
Nottetempo, mentre gli amici stanno dormendo, Mark prende la borsa con il denaro
e scappa. Spud lo vede uscire ma non lo ferma.
Va a prendersi il passaporto e lascia a Spud meta` del bottino nel locker.
Begbie intanto, furibondo, sta facendo a pezzo l'appartamento: arriva la
polizia e lo arresta. Mark ha deciso di ripartire da zero e di diventare
un borghese per bene.
Boyle non ha alcun merito per la storia, ma a suo credito va il continuo assalto
visivo e sonoro con cui l'ha trasferita sul grande schermo, e il caos
narrativo in cui la affoga.
Ma a rendere celebre il film e` stata forse soprattutto la colonna sonora.
A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
The Beach (2000) is an adaptation of
Alex Garland's novel "The Beach" (1996).
overlong, marred by bad acting and a poor screenplay.
It doesn't help that the protagonist is a ridiculous character.
Richard travels alone to a ridiculous version of Thailand that looks a lot
like England or Texas
(cheap hotels, easy sex, psychos and eccentrics everywhere, irrational violence,
false ids, shady cops, slow trains, rundown houses, potheads, obnoxious kids)
and not at all like Thailand.
Staying in the same hostel is a crazy man, Daffy, who talks about a mysterious
island and leaves a map for Richard. Daffy is later found dead in his room.
Richard befriends a
a French couple, the nice Etienne and his sexy girlfriend Francoise.
The island is a national park that is closed to tourists but the trio decides
to swim there, a long and dangerous swim.
Before the adventure begins Richard smokes pot with two dumb surfers, who also
heard about the island but in terms of a marijuana paradise.
Richard, who is no less dumb, makes a copy of the map and leaves it under the
door of their room before heading off for the big swim.
They do reach the island (despite a bad joke played by the French couple, who
fake a shark attack).
There is indeed a marijuana plantation, guarded by thugs armed with machine
guns. The trio avoids them and is picked up by a black man, Keaty, who
introduces them to a secret cult that has been living undisturbed on that
island for years. The community was founded by Daffy who later fell off with
the new leader, an icy woman named Sal who has a psycho boyfriend, Bugs.
Sal warns the trio that they are welcome to join the community but they are
forbidden to send news about it lest word would spread and the island would
be invaded by tourists causing massive retaliation by the drug gang next door.
Richard shows Sal the map, swears that he didn't make a copy of it, and tells
her of Daffy's suicide.
The island's main attraction is a gorgeous beach. The community is
self-sufficient but rather than an idyllic bunch of hippies they resemble a
cosmopolitan beach resort.
Richard is clearly attracted to Francoise who one night finally becomes his
girlfriend. Etienne accepts whatever makes Francoise happier.
Sal selects Richard to accompany her to mainland for some shopping, causing
the jealousy of her boyfriend Bugs who warns Richard against touching her.
Sal does invite sex from Richard and he can't resist the temptation, thus
cheating on Francoise. Meanwhile Sal has heard him talk with the surfers and
found out that he did make a copy of the map. The surfers are now planning
with their own expedition to the island.
Back at the island two men are attacked by sharks but only one dies. Sal
is determined to abandon the other one, who is in pain from horrible wounds,
in the jungle,
because his agony disturbs the happiness of the others. Only Etienne is
disgusted by Sal's decision and remains next to the dying man in the jungle.
Sal sees that the surfers have landed on the island with two party girls,
and tells Richard to chase them away and destroy their copy of the map.
At the same time Francoise finds out that he cheated on her (Sal had actually
told everybody except her).
Richard ends up living alone in the woods, waiting for his chance to attack
the four intruders, haunted by the memory of Daffy's suicide,
hallucinating that he is a character in a video game.
The surfers and their girls are easily killed by the drug traffickers, who then
chase Richard in the jungle. Richard runs back to the camp and tells
Etienne and Francoise that they are in mortal danger. Etienne refuses to
abandon the shark victim. Richard, alone with the wounded man, suffocates the
wounded man so that Etienne can leave without feeling remorse (while the rest
of the community if partying as usual).
The gangsters attack the camp and tell Sal that she has to kill Richard if
the community wants to stay. Sal does not hesitate and pulls the trigger, but
the gangsters have given her a gun with no bullets. Nonetheless this exposes
Sal's madness to the others, who promptly decide to abandon her and sail away
on rafts from the island back to the mainland.
He also directed the television movie
Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise (2001).
28 Days Later (2002), scripted by Garland, is a slow, implausible science-fiction/horror movie full of predictable Hollywood-ian cliches.
A gang storms a top-secret research laboratory. Apparently, they are activists
opposed to using animals for laboratory experiments. They intend to open all the
cages and release the chimps. The scientist begs them not to do it because
the beasts are highly contagious. The gang does not listen. Mayhem follows,
as the chimps have been infected with a psychological virus that spreads
28 days later,
Jim wakes up, hungry and thirsty, in a deserted hospital. He walks outside
and finds the city of London completely abandoned. Not a soul in sight.
He walks into a church and a demonic priest starts chasing him. Other
zombie-like beings join the hunt. Jim is saved by a man who wears a gas mask,
Mark, and taken to a building where another woman is hiding, Selena.
He tells them that he only remembers an accident. They tell him that since that
day a deadly virus has spread and killed most people, including the police,
the government, etc.
After a useless trip to check on his parents' health (of course, they are dead),
jim and his two new-found friends are attacked by a zombie. They kill him,
but Mark gets infected. Selena butchers him with a machete in a few seconds and then explains
to Jim that one has only ten seconds to kill the infected ones before it's
too late. They are chased by more zombies and saved by another man with
a gas mask, Mark. He lives with his teenage daughter Hannah.
Both Mark and Selena think that the entire world has succumbed to the plague.
There has been no sign of government ever since an evacuation was ordered
and failed (it was too late). Frank, though, has a radio that picks up a
strange broadcast from a military base outside the city. They decide to
take their chances and venture outside. During the mythical journey to the
base, they have to fight dozens of zombies and witness apocalyptic scenes.
They have rediscovered a sense of family when tragedy strikes again: Frank
gets infected. Selena tells Jim to kill him but Jim hesitates. A soldier
jumps out of the woods and starts shooting at Frank. Then he takes the
survivors to the country mansion that a major has turned into a fortress.
That night the soldiers have to fight a major battle against a zombie attack.
Afterwards, a soldier tries to rape Selena. The major tells Jim that he has
promised the women to the soldiers in order to recreate the human race.
Jim refuses to cooperate and is thrown into a jail with another dissident
soldier. The soldier tells him that the world is perfectly safe: the contagion
never spread beyond Britain. The major is insane, that's all.
The major orders the execution of Jim and the sergeant. A group of soldiers
takes them to the woods, where Jim sees the dead bodies of dozens of men,
all of them probably executed for the same reason: they refused to let the
soldiers rape their own women and/or to join into the rape of other women.
Luckily for Jim, the soldiers start fighting each other and he gets a chance
to escape (of course) and to reach the mansion (of course) before the rape
is consummated (of course). Jim releases an infected soldier that is kept
prisoner so he can go on a rampage infecting all the other soldiers.
Jim is also helped by the zombies that surround the compound, that stage another
attack and this time easily break into the perimeter of the compound.
Hannah manages to hide. Jim rescues Selena from the soldier who desperately
wants to rape her (but somehow wasted all that time). Jim is so ferocious that
Selena believes him infected and would kill him. Except that (of course) she
has fallen in love with him, and can't do it. The trio tries to run away but
the major catches up with them and shoots Jim, before being bitten by an
28 days later the zombies are dying. Jim wakes up once more time from a coma.
This time he finds Selena and Hannah. Perfectly healed (of course), Jim helps
the women lay down sheets to attract the attention of a foreign airplane.
They smiled at each other knowing that help is on the way.
Sunshine (2007) was scripted again by Garland.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a simple, charming fairy tale that
indirectly offers a fresco of the slums of India and of life in the underworld.
The brutality of the episodes is drowned in the good vibes projected by the
wins of the "slumdog" on the TV show.
Two cops are torturing a teenager. They accuse him of cheating and want him
to confess. They even use electrical shocks.
A flashback shows the teenager, Jamal, in a popular TV show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", where he is winning an astronomical fortune.
Another flashback shows him as a child playing with his brother Salim and
other children in an airstrip. The cops come to kick them out and chase them
into the narrow alleys of their slum. One day a Bollywood star comes to
visit the slum and Jamal has a photograph of him. He is inside a latrine when
the helicopter lands. Salim locks him inside the latrine. Jamal does
not hesitate: he jumps into the shit of the latrine, the only way to get out
and then runs covered in excrements to get an autograph. One day a mob
attacks their community, setting fire to homes and to people,
and kills the children's mom. They flee and take shelter in a train's coach.
A little girl is alone outside in the rain and, when Salim falls asleep,
Jamal calls her to take shelter with them. The kids have been reading Dumas'
novel "The Three Musketeers" at school and she, Latika, becomes the third
musketeer. She too has no parents.
Every now and then the story goes back to the police station and we understand
that the cops don't believe that a humble "slumdog", a child from the slums,
can possibly know the answers to all the questions that Jamal has already
answered on the show. For each question there is a flashback that explains
how Jamal knew the answer to the question, and so the flashbacks end up
composing a biography of the teenager.
The three children survive by scavenging in a garbage dump.
One day the three children are lured by Maman who takes them in a camp where
they are fed and clothed, and they are taught to sing popular poem.
(Who is the author of that poem is one of the question asked on the TV show).
They think Maman must be a good man, and Salim,
who is more aggressive than the average, becomes his trusted ally in controlling
the children. One day Salim witnesses what Maman does to the children: he
blinds them with acid and turns them into singing beggars, and he then sends
them around the city to beg. Maman tests Salim's loyalty by asking him to bring
Jamal to be blinded. Salim grabs Jamal and Latika and runs away, but Maman
catches Latika before she can jump on the train with the two boys (Salim
doesn't help her because he's bitter that she put burning chili on his penis
while he was asleep).
They travel to the Taj Mahal where they make money stealing shoes. Jamal also
begins making money by giving fake tours to naive tourists. Jamal starts
organizing bigger scams, like taking tourists to see the slums so that other
kids can steal everything from their car.
One day Jamal decides to go back to look for Latika. As he arrives, he finds
one of the begging children blinded by Maman, and gives him a $100 bill that
he stole. (That's how he knows the answer to the question of which politician
is pictured on the $100 bill). The blind child tells Jamal that Maman
is about to sell Latika as a virgin prostitute.
Jamal and Salim find her, but are confronted by Maman.
Salim pulls out a Colt revolver (that's how Jamal knows the answer
to the question who invented the revolver) and kills Maman.
Salim becomes a gangster in the gang of the brutal crimelord Javed.
The three teenagers move into a nice apartment. One day Salim decides to
have sex with Latika and Jamal tries to stop him. To avoid that the two
brothers fight, and Jamal gets injured, Latika offers herself to Salim.
Jamal leaves them and becomes a tea boy in an Indian call center where
hundreds of young men work. When one of the workers needs to take a break
and asks Jamal to cover for him, Jamal has the chance to search the electronic
phone book for Latika and Salim. He finds Salim and calls him. Salim meets
him at a high-rise building under construction from where they can see what
is left of their old slum: modern buildings are popping up everywhere.
Jamal now hates Salim, who refuses to tell him where Latika is.
Jamal follows his car in an auto rickshaw and finds her. She has become
the slave of the crimelord, too scared to think of fleeing.
Latika is fond of the TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", while Javed
wants to watch cricket (that's how Jamal knows the answer to a question
about cricket). Jamal asks Latika to flee with him and she shows up at the
train station, but Salim captures her before the can board the train.
Jamal decides to try his luck at "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", knowing that Latika watches the show.
By accident all the questions are easy for him to answer because they
are related to key episodes of his life.
The show's host, Prem Kumar, mocks the "slumdog", but the slumdog progresses
towards the final prize. When Jamal has already won a huge sum and his
success has already glued millions of viewers to the TV screen, Prem Kumar
tries to fool him: he writes on the mirror of the bathroom the answer to
the next question. Jamal, however, senses that Prem Kumar is trying to make
him lose everything and picks the other answer. At that point the show adjourns.
As Jamal leaves the studio, the cops arrest him, alerted by Prem Kumar that he
must be cheating. And that's why the cops torture him. The chief finally
believes his story and releases him. The following evening Jamal is on the
show for the final question: he can double his win or lose everything. Jamal,
by now convinced that he is obeying destiny, goes for the final question.
The whole nation is watching, in particular the poor people of the slums.
Latika is indeed watching the show in Javed's new den.
Salim, finally remorseful, gives her the car keys and his mobile phone, and
tells her to run.
Latika starts driving towards the studio but traffic forces her to stop and
watch the show from a shop where dozens of people stopped.
Meanwhile, Salim waits for Javed to find out that he has betrayed him.
Ironically, the final question for Jamal is about Dumas' three musketeers,
the book that he never studied. He is allowed to make one phone call.
Thinking that Salim may know the answer, he calls Salim: Latika picks up the
phone that Salim gave her. Latika does not know the answer but tells him that
she is free. Jamal now doesn't care about the money and picks an answer at
random. It is the right answer. He wins a huge sum. The whole nation erupts
into celebrations. Meanwhile, Javed has heard Latika answer the phone and
realizes that Salim let her escape. Salim kills him but Javed's gangsters kill
Jamal and Latika can finally meet and kiss.
127 Hours (2010)
Steve Jobs (2015)
Marriage of Lies (2016)
T2 Trainspotting (2017)