Slumdog Millionaire” has been hailed as a return to his “Trainspotting” form for helmer Danny Boyle. Yet the 52-year-old Brit has hardly spent the past decade in the wilderness.
His AFI Fest tribute serves as a reminder that since his feature debut with “Shallow Grave” in 1995, and even before that with his TV and theater work, Boyle has consistently reigned as one of the U.K.’s most eye-catching directors.
Never content to tread the same path twice, he has tested the boundaries of genre and technique with varying degrees of success, but always with a crowdpleasing brio. Boyle’s signature is a kinetic hyperrealism — from the larger-than-life apartment of “Shallow Grave” and the toilet-diving scene in “Trainspotting” to the deserted London streets of “28 Days Later,” the saintly apparitions of “Millions” and the hallucinatory sunbathing of “Sunshine.”
In “Slumdog,” however, he seems to have found material that naturally matches his own heightened sensibility and restless energy. In India, he encountered a reality so vivid and extreme he didn’t need to add anything.
“He found a place that’s more Danny Boyle than he is, so he could go with it,” says “Slumdog” producer Christian Colson.
Against all sensible advice, Boyle determined to shoot in real, chaotic Mumbai locations, rather than taking the safer route of reconstructing the slums on soundstages.
“The stars just aligned in terms of his sensibility and the different process of making the film,” Colson explains. “Normally directing is all about control, but he says that one of the things that liberated him was realizing that you’d never be able to control this place.”
“His eye just lingers on details you couldn’t invent, things that just happened that day, and they are in the film, they give it an extraordinary sense of place. All his films have a sense of wonder, and that’s acutely, joyously obvious in this film.”
Colson also argues that the independent financing — from Film4 and Celador Films — gave Boyle the freedom to pursue his own vision without regard to preconceived ideas of marketability that may have constrained some of his other work.
As one of his longtime collaborators says, “His taste is somewhere on that interesting borderline between cult and commercial. He has a genuine vision … He’s a proper storyteller, and his best stuff is an adrenaline rush.”