A RAY OF LIGHT 


;If there is a director working today who could save Hollywood from itself, that person is Danny Boyle. Probably best known for Trainspotting, his ode to heroin which, in 1996, became the British answer to Pulp Fiction, he's also done quite a bit more. Boyle helmed the best Hitchcock thriller not directed by Hitchcock (Shallow Grave, in 1994), personally resurrected the zombie genre with 28 Days Later (2002), and, with this month's Sunshine, he delivers a Kubrick-style space odyssey that manages to take the mindless disaster flick genre and elevate it into something akin to … well, art.

;;In fact, Boyle seems to find some sort of joy in defying conventional expectations with movies that, by and large, begin as genre movies. That is, until he reconfigures them to conform to his revolutionary approach to studio filmmaking – which is basically just a mission to tell good stories. Consider 28 Days Later. Most every other Hollywood director would have taken the tale – of a coma patient (Cillian Murphy) who wakes up to find London empty except for hordes of angry zombies – and sucked every allegory and social statement in Alex Garland's script right out of it. Instead of Christopher Eccleston's mad major and his very-human squad serving as the movie's ultimate villains, Jim and his friends would have found themselves somehow in possession of a bunch of cool, loud weapons that they'd then use to cut down zombies … accompanied by a deafening heavy metal soundtrack. In other words, the Hollywood version of 28 Days Later would have been forgotten before anybody ever paid attention, and subsequent zombie movies like Shaun of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and, hell, George A. Romero's own return to the zombie genre, Land of the Dead, would not exist.

;;Further back, consider Trainspotting, the adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel about a gang of misfit heroin addicts led by Renton (Ewan McGregor). Episodic and entirely indifferent to commenting on society (except to say society is too damned decrepit even to bother with), Boyle could have allowed his movie to degenerate along with his characters into something preachy and gratuitously profound. Instead, he had the courage to defy the typical pitfalls of the drug memoir, also avoiding the Tarantino-esque style of ironically elevating the stature of its despicable protagonists. Trainspotting, in other words, could have become a lamebrained ensemble black comedy. Even if it remained firmly ensconced in the drug-movie genre, Hollywood probably would have wanted to turn Trainspotting into the British equivalent of The Basketball Diaries. Instead, Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream exists as a consequence.

;;Sunshine is no different. Take the premise: 50 years into the future, a band of eight astronauts are sent on a possibly futile mission to reignite our dying sun with a nuclear device. Sounds pretty silly, right? Very similar to this pitch: When an asteroid hurtling through space threatens to destroy all life on earth, a band of astronauts are sent into space to destroy said asteroid with a nuclear device (Deep Impact or Armageddon, take your pick). Here's another one: When the Earth's spinning core begins to slow, jeopardizing all life on earth, a band of terranauts are sent to reactivate it with a nuclear device (The Core). The difference in Sunshine is that Boyle is more concerned with the story, building real suspense and crafting sequences that require humanity to evoke the emotion – not the orchestral strings Michael Bay is so fond of. He ignores heroic caricatures, rejects any sort of melodrama, and, in almost all cases, leans toward the anti-climactic over its more obvious cousin. Maybe Hollywood should pay attention, too, since Boyle employs some of the most modest budgets amongst his peers and manages to regularly deliver crowd-pleasers that net profits while inspiring more filmmakers to do the same.

;

;Then again, Hollywood would have to know what makes great movies. Unfortunately, its machine has no idea and Boyle is just a small cog in it.

; film@orlandoweekly.come

More by Cole Haddon

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