Times may be grim but director Danny Boyle is optimistic — sort of. His new film, Slumdog Millionaire (out this week), is not the daffy, uplifting affair that Little Miss Sunshine was but much like that 2006 sleeper hit, it’s a frontrunner for Heartwarming Indie That Earns an Oscar: An indigent orphan in India relates the story of his childhood and a long-lost sweetheart via his correct answers on the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Those answers result in a journey through the shantytowns and alleyways of Mumbai (M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” scores some of the light-hearted moments) and the romance that persists is unlike anything in previous Boyle films:no heroin, no zombies. Just two cute teenagers.
To get you in the mood — or, in the case of Trainspotting, maybe to ruin it — we’ve called out five memorable scenes from previous Boyle enterprises:
1. Opening credits of Trainspotting
Boyle didn’t exactly avoid glamorizing heroin like he promised.Ewan McGregor’s propulsive salvo, abetted by Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” endorsed freedom: Choose life! Choose leisure wear! Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning! The characters run, momentum builds, and then comes the reveal: Everyone is an addict. They chose nothingness.But, still, this tune is sweeeeet, the later toilet-bowl float is atmospheric, their lives seem okay.
2. Withdrawal (Trainspotting)
Scratch that, heroin sucks. McGregor’s wrenching, sweaty hallucinations, capped off by the dead baby on the ceiling, are a PSA: Don’t get hooked on junk.
3. Staring at the Sun (Sunshine)
Sunshine had a lot of third act problems — okay, the entire third act was a problem — but it was generally overlooked. Captain Kaneda’s death-by-sun is the first indication that the glowing orb has a dangerous hold on the crew members and, thanks to Underworld’s score and the whispering “What do you see? What do you see?,” the holy quality of this vision becomes spine-tingling.
4. Empty London (28 Days Later)
My personal favorite of Boyle’s films, 28 Days Later begins with Cillian Murphy waking up in a hospital and wandering around London, kicking scattered piles of London Bridge souvenirs. It’s not the first time a scene has been shot at dawn to capture the silence but when considered with the unfolding violence in this movie — first the fast-moving zombies, then the rapist soldiers! — the peacefulness betrays a sense of genuine horror.
5. Ending of Shallow Grave
Spoiler alert! Read no further if you’ve never seen this film. This is not the Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire. No love here, only money. Or, rather, love of money. The whole movie consists of double-crossing but this here is the twist: a triple-cross. Actually… maybe even a quadruple cross, depending on how you count it. Either way, a bloody surprise.
Watch: Slumdog Millionaire trailer