An unfortunate truth is that as we grow up we often grow apart. Old friends become estranged, favorite hobbies are left behind and the rose-tinted glasses we once viewed the world with start to dim, or at least change in hue. As a young film enthusiast I was sensationally grabbed by titles that exuded energy and thrust out-of-depth characters into severe situations, taking the audience with them, and one director who mastered this type of relentless story was the renowned Danny Boyle.
Shallow Grave (1994), Trainspotting (1996), 28 Days Later… (2002) and Sunshine (2007) are all 100% certified winners; films that sport authentic characters up against daunting odds they either put upon themselves or have been tasked with facing. Each are written, chopped and scored with an enthusiastic flourish and succeed immensely in their respectable genres. Then there is second-tier Boyle, consisting of his underrated adaptation of Alex Garland’s cult novel The Beach (2000) and the more family friendly Millions (2004), The Beach in particular holding a bizarre drawing power with its exotic location and the stench of danger that lingers behind every scene – this feel particularly grabbing for teenage viewers.
As previously mentioned however, as we go on our interests become altered and we grow apart from things once held dear, and while I still rate Boyle’s exceptional 4 listed above, post Sunshine I can’t help but feel that his relevance, along with the quality and originality of his output has dropped to almost redundant levels.
Sure, numerous Academy Award nominations and subsequent wins, as well as general audience favor may appear logical reasons to dismiss my opinion, but it appears to me that the success of the horrendously overrated Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 has brought Boyle a new breed of fan who seem content to settle for spiced up mediocrity instead of what he proved to be capable of with his aggressive titles of the past. And this is where I must invert another old life-truth and regrettably state: it’s not me, it’s you…
The signs of his transition into the realm of the sold-out were evident firstly with the announcement and eventual release of 28 Weeks Later in 2007, which he acted as executive producer on, an action/horror hybrid that is solidly made yet conventional to a tee and pays little respect to the low-key, subversive original. Just one year later though is when the next chapter of his career officially begun, for the worse. A cliched, poorly acted 2 hour romantic drama dressed in a sari and backed by Bollywood tunes and M.I.A’s Paper Planes arrived that was touted early as an Oscar contender with few critics smart enough to speak out against it. Many who had followed Boyle’s career up to this point could see little to no reason why such a conventionally minded film, complete with a mood-defying mid-credits song and dance sequence, could gain such acclaim when his others, with more ideas in one gripping happening, had mainly made their way to the cult collective instead.
The legendary Martin Scorsese finally won his long-due Best Picture (as well as Best Director) award for his crime classic The Departed in 2006, a film that deserved it and is still discussed now for all its quality aspects, but who discusses Slumdog Millionaire? Whatever happened to the hype surrounding 127 Hours? Surely if it was worth it then it would’ve carried it further into the endearment of audiences? And quite simply what was with Trance?
A glace at Boyle’s filmography proves he has never taken a break from directing, yet he is now rarely mentioned as a leader in the field when he was once at the very front of the pack. If there has in fact not been a drop in quality, or if his style has in fact changed for the better as mass audiences ignorant of his name would have you believe, then whatever happened to Danny Boyle?
I fear his upcoming sequel to Trainspotting will provide no answers.
I”ll forever be grateful to the UK maestro for introducing me to the world’s filthiest toilet in Trainspotting and Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later…, and like everyone else on the planet I was in awe of his work on the 2012 London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, but I believe more risks need to be taken by a director who clearly thrives on being challenged, and used to challenge his audience also.