Spotlight: Danny Boyle


Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is a creative, innovative genre renovator.  It’s easy to pick out Scorcese’s work, or Tarantino’s, or even David Fincher’s dark, mind-altering dramas.  But what sets Danny Boyle apart is that he will not limit himself to one genre.  His portfolio includes  brutally honest drug film in Trainspotting, a surprisingly enjoyable romantic comedy in A Lifeless Ordinary and DiCaprio’s continuing struggle to escape Titanic in The Beach. Two years after DiCaprio’s psychotic romp through the jungle, Boyle infected the zombie genus with  28 Days Later. And most recently, he reignited science fiction with Sunshine.  With films all over the map and off the radar, how can one proclaim his genius?  Well, the kid’s got style.

A Danny Boyle staple is his portrayal of isolation. It’s an interesting concept to be part of a group, and still feel alone. Whether it’s a tight-knit group of young people flirting with heroin, an island community, the last handful of people alive in England, or eight scientists on a spaceship, Boyle gives us an unapologetic look at their internal struggles.  Perhaps more impressive is how close the audience feels to the characters as they develop, making isolation much more personal. He spends a lot of quality time with DiCaprio  on that island as we watch him transform from a happy, laid back tourist into an overprotective Rambo of Thailand.  In 28 Days Later we  stand right beside an innocent Cillian Murphy, watching him shift into an emotionless warrior against the undead.  

Boyle reaches beyond the actors, and utilizes the environment to illustrate his vision: a tropical island, a deserted modern city, and the darkness of space.  All these settings not only play a huge part in character development, but they also have a development all their own.  DiCaprio’s island goes from a mysterious paradise, to an idyllic utopia, then transforms into a bloody war zone before departing as a beautiful memory.  In 28 Days, the thriving metropolis of London undergoes an immediate and unwitnessed deconstruction into a wasteland of terror.  Yet even in this devastation, on the edge of our seats, we feel some shred of peace and humanity in a deserted supermarket or on a back country road. Even in Tainspotting, which takes place mainly in the populated town of Edinburgh, Scotland, Boyle uses the settings to juxtapose the characters.  While sitting in the remote hills north of Glasgow, Ewan McGregor ignores the beautiful landscape, saying only “It’s shite being Scottish.”  However, in decaying apartments, the group is blissful and witty as they shoot up.

The musical element of Boyle’s work is not just solidly effective, but masterfully woven into the films.  Whether it’s eerie instrumentals to make you fear the infected or euro-house beats and indie rock to make you never ever want to come down from heroin locked in your room with an infant, Boyle knows how to manipulate with a soundtrack, and he does it beautifully.



Danny Boyle Filmography


Sunshine (2007)

Millions (2004)

28 Days Later (2002)

The Beach (2000)

A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

Trainspotting (1996)

Shallow Grave (1994)

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