[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B004VLKXG0][/pullquote] Before Trainspotting, before Slumdog Millionaire and all the accolades and recognition, before 127 Hours, Danny Boyle directed a film called Shallow Grave. Coming from a background of television work, including Inspector Morse, Shallow Grave was the Oscar-winners first foray into directing feature films. It took relative unknowns Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston and gave them their first brushes with stardom.
David (Eccleston), Alex (McGregor) and Juliet (Kerry Fox) share a flat in Scotland and are looking to rent their spare room. After a series of failed interviewees, a charming, if sinister, writer called Hugo (Keith Allen) takes the room. After a couple of days the trio find him dead in his room and discover a suitcase full of cash under his bed. They decide to dispose of the body and keep the cash, but slowly slip into a paranoid state as they lose their minds under the pressure.
What is surprising when watching Shallow Grave, other than how much society has changed (no mobile phones, smoking indoors etc.) is just how assured the direction of the film is. It’s more like the work of a director who has perfected his art over years. It’s not afraid to push boundaries of shot composition and shows a stark reality to the fantasy setting, something that Boyle would become known for in later works.
Like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, on which it appears to be loosely based, the majority of the action involves the main trio, with only the odd police investigator appearing throughout. As tension escalates, their actions become increasingly desperate and violent as their friendship is pushed to breaking point. It’s a fascinating to see such accomplished actors revelling in the rise and inevitable downfall of their characters as they bend and snap their moral compasses for a quick fix.
A sure directorial hand, fantastic casting and the modernisation of a classic story make Shallow Grave a superb first film from Boyle, a man who would go on to make some of the most defining films of a generation.