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Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave (1994)

Director: Danny Boyle
Cast overview: Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston
Running time: 92 minutes

Shallow Grave, Danny Boyle's feature directorial debut, is a great film. It's a memorable, engaging modern British thriller of which there have been painfully few in the last couple of decades, straight from the sort of eighties US thrillers I often enjoy. Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor - both talented enough actors - appear in early starring roles, and both give adept performances, particular Eccleston who gives one of the most affecting and unsettling performances I've seen in a long while.

This isn't a long film - it's short, really - but it does what it needs to do in the time perfectly. The plot - three friends finding their flatmate dead and with a suitcase full of cash in his room - is incredibly simple, but Boyle gives it enough flesh on the bones to make it more engaging than many of the other similar-type films that end up becoming predictable and dull. One thing I didn't think this film was is predictable, often a death-knell for a film. Also, like much of the Coens' best work, there is subtle humour here as well, and I think comedy in a crime film often works well - it accentuates the very criminal elements that we come to see.

I saw someone describe this as a nineties Hitchcock film, and I think that's a great description. OK, it may not be quite as good as some of the master of suspense's best work, but it comes mighty close and leaves viewers reeling as they watch scenes full of everything from comedy to brutality to violence to greed. It also asks us questions - how far would you go for the money? Would you kill for it? Would you be deceptive? All questions that, while not explicitly stated, are undoubtedly at the forefront of the audience's minds as they're watching this.

I also found the score reminiscent of eighties thrillers, similar to the soundtracks the likes of Pino Donaggio and Carter Burwell would write for De Palma and the Coens respectively. Effective.

In short, this is, for me, one of the best directorial debuts I've seen in a long while, and - while I've not seen other Boyle films - I'll be sure to check out more from him, particularly as he's fairly highly acclaimed.

David Stephens: Victory is the same as defeat. It's giving in to destructive competitive urges.

David Stephens: Normally I don't usually meet people, unless I already know them.

David Stephens: I am not ashamed. I have known love. I have known rejection. I am not ashamed to declare my feelings; take trust for instance, or friendship. These are the important things in life. These are the things that matter, that help you on your way. If you can't trust your friends, well, what then... What then?... Oh, yes. I believe in friends. I believe we need them. But if one day you can't trust them any more, well, what then... What then?

Danny Boyle has stated that of the films he has directed, this is his father's favorite, and that whenever a new film directed by Boyle junior is released (including Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which won the academy award both for best film and best director) and he asks Boyle senior's opinion, his father's review is always the same - "It was good, but not as good as 'Shallow Grave'."

According to director Danny Boyle there's a sly connection between this film and his next film, Trainspotting (1996). Keith Allen portrays a drug dealer in both films leading us to believe he may be the same character in featured in both, as Trainspotting was suppose to take place in the late 80s before the occurrences in Shallow Grave.

Ewan McGregor's mother, Carol McGregor, has a cameo in the film as one of the prospective flatmates.