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When three young friends discover their new flatmate dead but loaded with cash, their veneers of privilege and breeding give way to what lies behind: greed, deceit and evil.
For more about Shallow Grave and the Shallow Grave Blu-ray release, see Shallow Grave Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Gary Lewis
» See full cast & crew
Shallow Grave Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 20, 2012
Winner of Silver Seashell Award for Best Director at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Danny Boyle's "Shallow Grave" (1994) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film; documentary film about the making of "Shallow Grave" directed by Kevin Macdonald; exclusive new video interviews with actors Kerry Fox, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston; audio commentary with director Danny Boyle; exclusive new audio commentary with screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald; and more. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Three roommates – Juliet (Kerry Fox, Intimacy), David (Christopher Eccleston, Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen) and Alex (Ewan McGregor, Young Adam) – decide that they need one more person to take the last available room in the large house they rent. They post an ad in a local newspaper and begin screening prospective renters. While doing so, the trio manages to have plenty of fun.
The lucky one is Hugo (Keith Allen, The Others), a mid-age man who tells Juliet, David and Alex that he is working on finishing his book. Juliet is particularly impressed with Hugo and makes sure that David and Alex are well aware of it. Shortly after, Hugo moves in.
But a few days later Hugo is found dead in his room. Under his bed, Juliet, David and Alex discover a large suitcase full of money. They fight over what to do with it, but eventually decide to keep it. Then, they dismember Hugo's body and get rid of it.
Kerry and Alex begin celebrating. They go on a shopping spree and treat themselves well. David warns them that now is not the time to be careless, but they ignore him. They do agree, however, to hide the money in the attic. After they do, David becomes paranoid.
Two gangsters begin looking for Hugo and the money. They leave a few bodies behind and eventually get to Juliet, David and Alex. Things get complicated when each of the three friends realizes that none of the other two are to be trusted.
Shallow Grave was British director Danny Boyle's first feature film. It was first screened internationally at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 where many felt that the film should have been included in the official program. Director Boyle's unique style and notably edgy sense of humor impressed critics and casual fans.
Shallow Grave also kick-started Scottish actor Ewan McGregor's career. His performance was praised by the press and director Boyle made sure that the he would return for his future smash hit Trainspotting (1996). Seven years after the release of Shallow Grave, McGregor was recognized with a Golden Globe award for his performance in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge (2001).
Today, Shallow Grave looks rather dated. Its characters are thin, plot transparent and dark humor not dark enough to entice a new generation of viewers who feel strongly about films such as Guy Richie's quirky Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Mike Hodges' moody I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes (2004).
Still, there are certain aspects from Shallow Grave that are as effective as they were when the film was first screened. For example, the dialog, courtesy of John Hodge, has some terrific lines that have not lost their edge. Cinematographer Brian Tufano's (Billy Elliot) lensing remains one of the film's strongest assets as well.
Note: In 1994, Shallow Grave won Silver Seashell Award for Best Director at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.
Shallow Grave Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner in 6K/2k resolution workflow from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt and scratches.
Telecine supervisors: Lee Kline, Brian Tufano.
Colorist: Stephen Berman/Deluxe Digital London."
The new and supervised by director of photography Brian Tufano high-definition transfer is clearly superior to the one British distributors Film Four used for their Blu-ray release of Shallow Grave in 2009. Close-ups look sharper and boast better depth (see screencapture #4); during panoramic shots clarity is also improved (compare screencapture #11 with screencapture #10 from our review of the Film Four release). There are discrepancies in the color-schemes of the two releases as well. Generally speaking, on the Criterion release the reds, browns, and blacks are more prominent and better saturated, while on the Film Four release light and softer greens and browns have a tendency to overwhelm the reds and blacks. As a result, during sequences where light is restricted the Film Four release looks softer. Furthermore, there are no traces of problematic sharpening. On the Film Four release, however, light edge-enhancement occasionally creeps in. Criterion's release is also free of noticeable scratches, flecks, and damage marks. This said, there are a few sequences where I noticed some extremely light artifacts popping up, though they are not even remotely distracting. All in all, Criterion's presentation of Shallow Grave is unquestionably more satisfying than Film Four's. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Shallow Grave Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless audio track has a modest dynamic amplitude. This is not to imply, however, that there are technical limitations that could have been avoided; rather that the film has a modest sound design, which the lossless track effectively replicates. The dialog is crisp, stable, clean, and very easy to follow, but the dynamic progressions are indeed quite limited. As far as I am concerned, the short electronica motifs are the only bits from the film that are likely to make an impression. For the record, there are no distortions or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Shallow Grave Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shallow Grave Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Perhaps the only major problem with Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave is the fact that it will always exist in the shadow of Trainspotting. It is a fine, entertaining and well acted film, but impossible not to compare to Trainspotting. The two clearly changed the image of contemporary British cinema abroad, but the latter is simply a much more complete film. As expected, Criterion's Blu-ray release of Shallow Grave comes with a strong selection of supplemental features. There is a particularly good new audio commentary with screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald. RECOMMENDED.
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