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The new flatmate of three preexisting roommates turns up mysteriously dead but in possession of a large sum of money. When the roommates decide to keep it for themselves, their action sets in motion a destructive chain of events that spiral out of control. Written by
A glimpse of the greatness that became Danny Boyle, and a fabulous thriller.
I saw this film before "Trainspotting" came out, so I had no clue who this Ewan McGregor fellow was, or what sort of director Danny Boyle would turn out to be. "Shallow Grave" is a great enough film to have sealed the deal for me: I have sought out his work (and have, for the most part, loved it!) ever since.
You've already read vague bits about the plot, I'm sure, and I shan't give away any more than the basics - three roommates and best friends are inseparable until a suitcase full of money, found through some rather unpleasant circumstances (to say the least), causes not only friction and paranoia but also potential for violence, as they each struggle with their own morality over what to do. Do they call the cops and return the cash? Tell no-one what they had to do to keep it, and live the high life? It seems so simple in the beginning, boiled down to a single conversation over a kitchen table, but the complexities of that one decision soon become awfully clear. And as David (Eccleston) says at one point about a camcorder, bought as a new toy by his flatmates, "Yes, you PAID five hundred quid for it, but we don't know what the COST to US will be yet." Eerie foreshadowing, there. And that is where the fun...and fear...all begin.
What follows is a story that manages to ratchet up the tension at a furious pace. The whole film fits into just over 90 minutes, and it is very impressive to see how effectively the entire mood changes as these three roommates begin doubting each other, themselves, their neighbours, the police, and the occasional unfamiliar car parked outside their Edinburgh flat... The fun and hijinx for the trio (and for us, the audience) are brought to a screeching halt, and the rest of the film stays taut, never tipping its hand to let you know what might happen the next time someone comes to their door.
If you've seen and enjoyed Boyle's more recent works ("Millions," "28 Days Later," "Slumdog Millionaire," "127 Hours"...and especially "Trainspotting," as you'll see a LOT of familiar faces who got their start here), go back to this one to see where his true style came to be. It's no surprise at all that he's gone on to Oscar acclaim; he's clearly been building his craft and unique methods for some time. "Shallow Grave" is a fantastic noir-ish thriller, managing to be laugh-out-loud funny in places (the three leads are fabulous, particularly McGregor and Eccleston) and then turning very, very dark on you without warning.
And I must say...the ending alone is worth the ride. ;)
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