Danny Boyle


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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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 the machine.
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, inscrutable.
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.
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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 psicotico Begbie. 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 lui.
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.

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.
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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 vampyre-like.
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 infected soldier.
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 him. Jamal and Latika can finally meet and kiss.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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