British filmmaker Danny Boyle made his debut in 1994 with the dark comedy-thriller Shallow Grave, and since then, he's made his mark as one of the most interesting directors in the business. Normally choosing to work outside the Hollywood system, his daring persona is reflected through his ability to genre-hop and take great risks as a filmmaker. This uniqueness as well as his signature blend of hyperactive camerawork and a prevailing theme of hope in his films give him an edge that most filmmakers do not possess. The 2008 surprise hit Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars and earned Boyle the coveted Best Director trophy. His new film 127 Hours offers no signs of post-Oscar gloating as he continues to push himself and take great risks as a filmmaker, all while sticking true to the things that make his films so one-of-a-kind.
Here's how I would rank the films of Danny Boyle...
9. A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
Boyle's first move towards the mainstream is probably his biggest misfire. It's a formulaic, uneven mess of a film. Not a complete bust, as it does contain a few laughs and decent moments, but there's nothing really substantial or interesting enough to justify its making.
8. The Beach (2000)
Another move towards the mainstream, and another misfire. Noticing a trend here? Based on Alex Garland's novel The Beach, this film version just doesn't translate well. Like A Life Less Ordinary, it's also uneven and messy, though it does contain some interesting ideas regarding human nature. The first half of the film is decent, but eventually it all falls apart. A failed experiment I would say, as it tries to do so much and ultimately loses focus.
7. Shallow Grave (1994)
6. 127 Hours (2010)
I really had a hard time deciding where I wanted to place this one. Since i've only seen it once so far, it's kind of hard for me to know what kind of lasting effect it will have on me. I wouldn't be surprised if it were to crack the top five after repeat viewings, though I am concerned about its replay value considering the challenging nature of the film. 127 Hours totally personifies Danny Boyle as a filmmaker. He continually feels the needs to challenge himself and take on fresh and difficult material, even after being rewarded with Oscar gold. Instead of casting Tom Hanks or Sean Penn in some social drama, Boyle used his free director's pass to do a challenging vanity project which would've never been greenlit by any studio had he not been the director of Slumdog Millionaire.
Read more on my take of this film
5. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
For obvious reasons, I felt obligated to put this one higher on the list. It's definitely a good film, and it might even be great, but it just isn't as emotionally affecting for me as I feel it should be. Slumdog Millionaire is unique in that it plays out like a rags to riches fairy tale that's given large doses of harsh realism. It's kinetic, guerilla-style rendering of the poverty-stricken slums of Mumbai establish authenticity, as does Boyle's overall representation of an alien culture. The heartwarming and crowd-pleasing finale is justified by having to endure what seems like a lifetime of misery and misfortune. Boyle's usual themes shine through here as he touches on the endurance of the human spirit and the pursuit of happiness through love as opposed to material wealth. It's got the ability to universally unspire, but the locale couldn't be any more fitting for a story such as this. The ending isn't quite as emotionally satisfying as I wanted it to be, and there are a few moments where things get a little over-manipulated, but these small gripes won't encourage me to argue when people proclaim this to be the best film of 2008.