Bottom Line: The mood is decidedly heavy and premeditated, but the quality vacillates all over the place.

Directed by: Danny Boyle
Renton: Ewan McGregor
Also Starring: Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle

“The world’s changing. Music’s changing. Even drugs are changing.” –Diane (Kelly Macdonald)

Trainspotting is a morbidly intense drama. A film about heroin and how it can easily take control, there is almost no limit to what is shown in their disgusting actions, vivid hallucinations, and increasingly depraved lives. I’ll honestly say that I have never experimented with drugs of any sort, nor do I have any interest in doing so; I’d imagine a heroin addict, current or rehabilitated, would react to the film much differently. In my eyes, director Danny Boyle (later known for Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and 28 Days Later…) was attempting to put the epidemic in a negative light. Often times, it works well in this dark compound of comedy and drama. Others, it spontaneously, impulsively seems to contradict itself.

Renton (Ewan McGregor) is a streetwise fellow in the capital city of Edinburgh, Scotland. On a daily basis, he makes his living by lying, cheating, stealing, and other ways of screwing townspeople over. His home is where he creates and injects heroin alongside his fellow addicts. Little does he know that the depressant is vilely demolishing his life as well as those around him. When this horror comes to his fruition, Renton tries to wean himself off it. But the fact that everyone he sees on a regular basis is still submissive to the drug’s lethal power, is alluring to him.

The characters presented in Trainspotting are the main issue. Take away their addiction to drugs and they’re still not all that admirable let alone interesting. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller)–a man an obsessive aspiration to emulate Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond. Spud (Ewen Bremner)–an unintelligent putz. Begbie (Robert Carlyle)–a violent, deranged psycho. Diane (Kelly Macdonald)–a fourteen-year-old whose boredom is no more than a catalyst for drug addiction. Tommy (Kevin McKidd)–an athlete who is lured and destroyed by his own curiosity. Even the main character gets a superficial makeup. At the point where the film begins, he’s nothing more than a walking stash of drugs. His narration makes him seem like a completely different person. Or you could say, at least he delivers harrowin’ diction about heroin addiction. It takes them all a painfully long time before they either a) muster up and realize that they are living lives of constant turmoil, or b) die in vain before they get a chance.

Trainspotting succeeds in its effort to endure all ninety-four minutes. The MPAA accurately rated this R “for graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence.” I don’t know about you, but those kinds of extremities alone would prompt me to turn the film off before the ten-minute mark. It’s not the screenplay that professes exceptionally. An adaptation of Scottish author Irvine Welsh’s debut novel, written by second-timer John Hodge, I’d assume the film would look merely decent on paper. It’s Mr. Danny Boyle himself who calls the shots and reaches nearly uncharted peaks. Five-time Boyle collaborator Brian Tufano’s low-key, minimalist cinematography adds a pinch of realism and a few notable ounces of entertainment. The soundtrack equips both techno and rock music to the same gripping effect. Of course, half of it is composed of Iggy Pop. I mean to say Trainspotting is watchable with these relieving embellishments. I enjoyed it while it lasted, and after watching its gratuitous, macabre, and unsettling nature, I’ve instantly developed an aversion from heroin. On the other hand, I’d rather not give such a twisted drama a second viewing.



33 thoughts on “Trainspotting

    • I agree, the techno soundtrack is great. It makes the film ten times more intense. But I wouldn’t say it represents the ’90s. Have you seen/heard the soundtrack from Forrest Gump? I’d say there’s plenty there that does more. Lots of throwbacks to the film’s setting, and it works well in context.

  1. Sorry to hear you wouldn’t give this a second viewing as it’s one of those films that gets better with several viewings. This is still Boyle’s best film in my eyes. “Shallow Grave” is worth checking out as well, if you haven’t seen it already?

  2. Big fan of this film, it’s probably one of my favourites. It’s not an easy watch at times though, I agree. It does balance out the darkness with a hell of a lot of humour as well though. Begbie is such a brilliant character, Robert Carlyle’s performance is just brilliant.

    • I laughed very, very hard during three scenes:

      1. The opening narration (something like “get a job, get a house, get a f##king big TV”)

      2. The scene that juxtaposed a baseball game with two characters making love.

      3. Right before McGregor enters the toilet, we see onscreen titles reading “The Worst [Toilet] in Scotland.”

      Everything else was just…sad. And horrifying. My thoughts started in the A range and just shimmied down from there.

  3. I pretty much agree; using your rating though, I’d bump it up to a B+. Overall, it was good and the screenplay kept things interesting. Like you mentioned though, not one you might want to see the next day. I saw it a year ago and haven’t had the urge to revisit it.

  4. I really liked this movie, though I’ll never watch it again, mainly because of the incident with the baby. That was too painful to sit through again. I was also a bit traumatized by The Worst Toilet in Scotland. Yes, it’s definitely a movie that will put you off trying heroin … or using public toilets. πŸ˜›

  5. I definitely agree that this one is hard to watch, I completely appreciate the quality from a cinematic standpoint though. I had the same overall feeling with Killing Them Softly last night, I feel like it’s perfectly normal to have a movie that you ackowledge as being good but that you also don’t really want to see again. In the end it’s all about what you want to see when you spend that 100 minutes of your life on a movie

    • I was never really sure whether or not to watch Trainspotting. It’s from Danny Boyle, who directed one of my favorites (that would be Slumdog Millionaire), and the critical acclaim is unbelievable, but something about it seemed, you know, “not my kinda film.” Recommendations were shot at me from all over the blogosphere, and I just ignored them; it wasn’t until a good friend of mine recommended it to me (he’s also recommended to me great films like Memento and The Cabin in the Woods) that I decided, “Maybe it’s not all that bad.” No, it isn’t half bad, but I was expecting a much greater movie. If the book is any more explicit, I’m afraid to read it.

      • Thanks!

        I have to say I always viewed Trainspotting as a much lighter film than for example Requiem for a Dream, but at the same time much more accurate when it comes to portrayal of addiction, perhaps it’s because it’s set in such cold reality. I always thought it had plenty of hilarious scenes in it, as does the novel, but the novel gets disturbing and very explicit really fast, while the worst thing that happens in the movie is probably the breakfast-poop-explosion πŸ™‚

        • Blech! You’re just reminding me of the film’s disgust, Sati! D:

          I haven’t seen Requiem for a Dream, but whenever I have the chance, I’ll take it in a heartbeat. Darren Aronofsky also directed Pi and Black Swan, right? Two others I have yet to see.

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