December 3, 2012 by thedavidryan
Trainspotting – Review
“Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”
Yes, I know after I reviewed Full Metal Jacket I said the next “Finally got round to watching….” would be The Usual Suspects. However, late Saturday afternoon I spotted a DVD in my collection that I completely forgot I owned and it is a DVD that is part of my ever growing list of classic films to watch. So, being the one of a kind eccentric that I am, I decided instead to watch and review Danny Boyle’s 1996 picture; Trainspotting. Fear not though lovers of The Usual Suspects, I will get round to watching/reviewing that baby all in good time. Patience my dear child, patience.
Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel, Trainspotting is the story of Renton (Ewan McGregor), a deadbeat adolescent with very few prospects who is severely wrapped up in the extremely dangerous Edinburgh drug scene. Despite this however, Renton is on a reinvigorated mission to clean up his act and leave the life of drug dependency and petty crime with his junkie friends behind.
Danny Boyle offers a unique take on the world of drug obsession and it is never a glamorous one. Boyle correctly refuses to glorify the seedy world of heroin, by making the consequences to the high, as fatal as possible.
Unsurprisingly when dealing with a raw topic such as drug abuse, Trainspotting features a whole host of shocking and in your face drama. Despite its release back in 1996, the distressing scene with the poor overdosed baby lying motionless in its cot, was just as extreme for me to watch in 2012 as it would have been back in the mid nineties and illustrated just how destructive the world of heroin addiction can be.
The aforementioned overdosing baby and death of Renton’s pal Tommy reassure the viewer that heroin or any drug should be looked upon with disdain and avoided at all costs.
Ewan McGregor conveys a very real depiction of an anti-authority drug lout, with no ambition to achieve anything in life other than to score his next fix. It is a performance from McGregor that quite rightly earned a ton of praise from critics and audiences alike upon the movie’s release and it is an earnest performance that will linger in the memory for some time after the end credits finish.
Robert Carlyle’s display as the unhinged Francis “Franco” Begbie is a revelation. Unlike other characters in the film, Begbie is not a user nor is he a distributor. In fact Begbie is the unusual moral voice of the film, constantly attempting to discourage Renton and his junkie pals in their frequent pursuits of heroin. Begbie however is by no means the rational one of the group. He is a short tempered, angry, volatile man that can readily snap at any time. Just imagine a Scottish Joey Barton with a moustache and you get the idea.
Despite its release sixteen years ago, Trainspotting is still an absolute visual delight. The grubby feel and appearance of the drug squalors make the environment seem as unappealing as possible and the direction of Boyle achieves this wonderfully. The hallucinating moments of the film are a joy to watch, as Boyle takes the viewer completely into the mind of the addict with dark yet often hilarious drug induced fantasies. Boyle manages to capture a moment in time that translates to be just as relevant now as it did back in the mid nineties. This visually rich, culturally significant film focuses on a cluster of friends who are frustrated, defiant and full of misguided enthusiasm. Sound familiar?
One of the most unexpected things about a movie regarding unapologetic drug users in the mid nineties is the genuine humour in the piece. Trainspotting has often laugh out loud moments that make you reluctantly begin to like certain members of the group. Renton, whilst having a one night stand, screams “phew! I haven’t felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978!” in a hilarious line which is only superseded as his friend Spud takes speed to help cope with pre-interview nerves, an action that proves to have outrageous consequences.
Trainspotting – Conclusion
Trainspotting is a vivid and honest look into heroin addiction that has the command to shock, alarm and disgust one minute and makes you explode with hilarity the next. Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is one of the most effective anti-drug movies I’ve seen in a long time. Trainspotting’s representation of heroin dependence is so brutal and alarming that you quickly appreciate that heroin is a drug not to be messed with.
Stay tuned for another “Finally got round to watching….” sometime this week. Will it be The Usual Suspects? Who knows! Come back and find out.
For more drivel spouting, follow me on Twitter!