Tonight, the stage is Danny Boyle’s. His Olympic opening ceremony will hold the world’s attention with flying sheep, a horde of geese, winged cyclists, an ode to the NHS and a village cricket match. There will be athletes with flags. There will be fireworks.
Boyle first snatched our attention in 1994 with Shallow Grave. A smart piece of cinema, that wasn’t the least bit serious – a rare mix in British cinema whose staple diet had been costume drama and/or social commentary. Shallow Grave was a warning shot. Trainspotting – Boyle’s next film – was an all conquering, culture consuming triumph – a lithe, shivering McGregor providing 90’s Britain with its most iconic image. Boyle will attempt to repeat the trick tonight 18 years on. We’re looking forward to the smack addict dance routine keenly.
But back to Shallow Grave, and Boyle’s first flexing of his considerable stylistic muscles. Leftfield kickstarted the film as the camera rode breakneck over the well heeled cobbled streets of Edinburgh. Exhilarating soon turned to gripping as a cold hearted, cautionary tale among a smug trio of professionals unfolded. Friendship tested and eventually consumed by a single suitcase filled with cash. Oh, and Keith Allen, who would test any friendship – even when he’s dead.
Bones, breakdowns, climbdowns and holes in the ceiling result in a savage finale and this final shot – a smiling McGregor, learning just a touch too late.
Visually stunning throughout, Shallow Grave displayed a confidence on the big screen which seemed to burst from nowhere, rejuvenating British cinema in the process. A young relatively unheard of cast, a dance music soundtrack, Shallow Grave was a neither postcard nor commentary, just an entertaining 92 minutes which happened to be in Britain – not about it.
Unlike tonight – three hours solely about lil’ ol GB. There will be irony.
“I’m not ashamed. I’ve known love. I’ve known rejection. I’m not afraid to declare my feelings. Take trust, for instance, or friendship. These are the important things in life.”