Trainspotting

Director: Danny Boyle

1996

First of all I need to apologize for my long absence from the blogosphere – real life (in the form of the Olympics … London 2012 baby!!) kind of took over. As one of the thousands of Gamesmakers my life became all about the Olympics – I did my shifts, I came home where I watched some of the continuous coverage, I went to sleep and I repeated for about 4 weeks. Consequently there was not much time left for anything else – certainly not something as luxurious as watching films. But the Olympics has now finished and life is returning to something resembling normality so I thought I’d mark my return with Trainspotting – a film I still think is Danny Boyle’s masterpiece. On a side note … didn’t you just love the opening ceremony?! Danny did the country so proud!! See there was a reason for all that guff about the Olympics really. Anyway on with the review … it’s what you’re all here for really.

Trainspotting begins explosively with the (now classic) chase scene through the streets of Edinburgh and the infamous “Choose Life” speech narrated over the top which sets the tone for the film. Joanna Berry calls Trainspotting a ‘punchy, grim look at the Edinburgh drug scene, based on offbeat writer Irvine Welsh’s controversial novel” (861, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) She also hits on the key component – “Drug abuse here isn’t depicted as a glamorous option.” (861, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die). I have never done any sort of drugs in my life and I think part of that is due to first seeing Trainspotting when I was about 16 – while I must admit it fascinated me it also terrified me!

The entire cast is outstanding but the standout performance for me was, and still remains, Ewan McGregor’s Renton … closely followed by Robert Carlyle’s completely deranged and almost psychotic Begbie.  Boyle has created some of the most disturbingly iconic images with Renton emerging from the most revolting toilet ever seen. And then of course there is the horrific hallucination of a dead baby crawling across the ceiling during Renton’s detox. It’s surprisingly funny albeit in a dark way.

The colour palette, while being warm colours like oranges, yellows and reds, is washed out, a constant reminder of the washed out nature of the lives of the group of characters. I love the way so many of the shots have an unreal quality to them – like Renton’s bad hit when his pov is seen from a carpet lined hole in the ground. Renton’s period of detoxing is another excellent example of this with the walls literally moving and becomes quite a harrowing experience to watch, all to a pounding techno back beat.

Trainspotting really made an impression on me the first time I watched it all those years ago and it continues to do so. It remains a powerful, and oddly life affirming, film and like Joanna Berry I think that “Boyle and Hodge’s refusal to take a moral stance is in fact one of the movie’s many attributes – we are not here to judge Renton and his pals; we are just there to watch as, in a bleakly humorous fashion, their lives fizzle away to nothing.” (861, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) This decision to not take a moral stance allows the audience to come to their own decisions about both drugs and the kind of lifestyles associated with drug addiction. Indeed I think it is this element that makes Trainspotting such a powerful film and enduringly so over a decade later. And I stand by my statement that this is, and remains, Danny Boyle’s best film!!

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