Friday, July 29, 2016

Film review: SHALLOW GRAVE (Danny Boyle, 1994)

I saw this title at the Prince Charles Cinema as part of their Summer celebrating 35 mm film. In a luxurious cinema with plush velvet curtains, there couldn't be a better way for movie buffs to spend their evening. The schedule runs until August 20th, so make sure you check out the itinerary! 


The lesser known of Danny Boyle's Scotland-set 90s collaborations with Ewan McGregor, Shallow Grave tells the story of three housemates, the mischievous duo of a doctor, Juliet (Kerry Fox) and a reporter, Alex (Ewan McGregor), and the more by-the-book accountant David (Christopher Eccleston, as un-Doctor Who'ish as you could possibly imagine). They recruit a fourth housemate who, overnight, is found dead from a drug OD. He also happens to have left behind a suitcase full of money, and the housemates decide to dispose of his body and keep the cash for themselves.

A Kafkaesque nightmare ensues as they find themselves interrogated by probing police, targeted by an unsavoury pair of henchmen who want to know where the money went, and, as a result, the paranoia and distrust between the three escalates. David, in particular, undergoes a character transformation in their precarious circumstances, changing from a meek white collar worker to a ruthless Machiavelli with a penchant for using his hammer.

The tension is wonderfully accentuated by a sparse but effective score from Simon Boswell, with discordant piano keys mirroring the audience's growing sense of discomfort. Yet, at the same time, Shallow Grave also offers levity; when arguing over who should cut up the corps, Alex says to Juliet, 'you're a doctor, you kill people everyday!'.

As the three leads find themselves in increasingly dire straits, the bond between them is stretched thinner and thinner, which potentiates David's magnetic transition from mouse into man. McGregor and Fox are very good, but Eccleston is brilliant, those owl-like eyes peering up from his tortoiseshell glasses throughout, in a sinister, wicked, yet utterly enjoyable morality tale about dishonour among thieves. 

No comments: