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.
i dunno man, 127 Hours is still to me a very great picture. It won’t be anything that’s listed as something Boyle will ultimately be known for, and I think that’s where u can attribute how it kind of faded quickly. But it was a very solid entry at the time, something very different. On the whole though, yeah. It seems his best days are behind him. Trance was really odd . . . . .
Cheers for the thoughts mate, some varied once here which is good to see! I really didn’t take to 127 Hours, found the editing took away from the immersion and I was left wanting something with a bit more meat on its bones…
I think he’s doing just fine. Sure, Trance wasn’t high-art like many of his other movies were, but it at least showed that he can still have fun as hell when he’s doing stuff just for the sake of it. Sooner than later, I bet you, he’s going to surprise the hell out of us with whatever he’s got next. Thoughtful post, I must say.
I hope so man! Would love to connect with a new film of his like I used to.
I completely agree with you. Slumdog was totally overrated and Trance was a convoluted waste of time. He’s started believing his own hype.
Glad you agree Abbi! I left the cinema after Slumdog feeling totally underwhelmed and annoyed about all the positive hype. Yet another unqualified decision by the Academy.
I thought Slumdog was nearly perfect and so many film techniques-love a good use of the Dutch Tilt. His earliest movies are my favorite though.
Always happy to have people disagree! Thanks for sharing.
I believe he will return at some point with more quality movies. I can’t agree about The Beach which IMO is a poor outing for Boyle and DiCaprio, a couple of the scenes I found seriously corny and over-all the movie just didn’t work for me. I must agree about “Trainspotting 2 Revenge of the toilet”, or whatever they may call it. Its a classic, it does not require a conclusion, we dont need to know any more, leave it as it is.
Leave it as indeed! I could end up being wrong, but don’t see it as the progression his career needs. Oh, and I think you’re in the majority there with your thoughts on The Beach!
There’s an argument that Trainspotting was his last really great film. 28 Days Later was all about the mood but it didn’t match that with the narrative and Sunshine was just sort of OK. You’re completely right about Slumdog Millionaire though
Can see what you mean mate, think that because the mood in 28 Days is so astonishing it carries it for me regardless though. Personally I think Sunshine is an extremely underrated future sci-fi classic too…
… if only he never made Slumdog.
Sunshine is a poor man’s Event Horizon! There, I said it!
Haha well I love both so will let it slide…
I have not seen Trainspotting, but I do agree that Slumdog is massively overrated.
Oh give it a go sometime mate if you’re in the mood for a bit of a troubling though energetic ride! Will change your perspective on what Boyle is capable of.
I love Danny Boyle. He belongs to my favorite directors, and all of his movies I watched belong to my most favorite movies, also Slumdog Millionaire. I really was obsessed with this movie and that movie and M.I.A. are the reasons why I am so interested in india today 🙂
Oh fantastic to hear! This is why we title these articles “opinion” pieces ha. It’s great to hear you connect with his films and that they impacted your life.
Excellent piece Jordan. I haven’t seen Trance yet, nor Slumdog Millionaire (the over-hyped buzz surrounding it that you point out is probably holding me back!) and I thought 127 Hours was pretty intense, though perhaps only memorable for that one scene. But I guess I sort of have to agree. Nothing he’s made recently would appear to have gained the cult acclaim of Trainspotting, 28 Days Later… or Sunshine. Huge admirer of those three, particularly Sunshine. Having said all of that, as an (honorary) fellow Scot, Boyle will always be a favourite of mine!
Glad you (sort of) agree mate! It’s an interesting one, and I really do think he has the capability to bounce back with another one for his early admirers.
I find Boyle to be consistently watchable and would always seek out a new release of his. Have a couple of difference of opinions with yourself though. Trainspotting didn’t impress me as much as it has others, while I still find my sole viewing of 127 Hours upon release memorable. 28 Days Later is probably the peak of his artistic credentials so far but I enjoyed Trance – first half of the script moves too quickly scene to scene and lacks dynamic relationships between characters, but ties together brilliantly with some superb cinematography and hypnotism sequences.
Always happy to have a difference of opinion mate! Glad you’re still a big fan of his work. I have to agree with 28 Days Later being his peak I think… I watched that A LOT growing up.
I can’t agree more on your views on Slumdog Millionaire; especially, being an Indian and growing up watching world cinema. Danny Boyle played the safe bet in the 2008 film adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s Q & A. He totally lacked the vision, characterized stereotypes with an overdose of Bollywood-style narration. There are scores of Hindi and Bengali language films, made in India, which deserves far more accolades and recognition than this 8 Oscar winner.
Oh a very interesting perspective! Thanks for the comment. It’s a shame that Slumdog can be such a big hit yet western audiences remain ignorant of its inspiration.
I dunno bro, I loved Slumdog and 128H for their amazing cinematography, great soundtracks, and good performances. The former in particular utilzed A.R. Rahman’s killer music as well as the best of Bollywood. Still, I wouldn’t mind Boyle making a sequel worthy of the original 28 Days 😀
Glad to hear you enjoyed them more than me! It will be interesting to see if 28 Months Later ever happens.
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Great piece! Boyle’s work has always been hit and miss for me. I love Shallow Grave, A Life Less Ordinary, 28 Days Later and Sunshine. It’s a shame Slumdog and 127 Hours got so much praise, because those films are really not up to par compared with his earlier work. Hope Boyle will surprise us again soon.
Cheers! Glad so many people agree with me! I certainly think he’s super talented and has a few more great works to come yet.
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