Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

REVIEW: Trainspotting

Trainspotting *****

“Choose your future, choose life… now why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life; I chose something else, and the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?” These words spoken by Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) over the opening shots played out to the strains of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ set the tone for the rest of the movie. Trainspotting is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It was incredible when I first saw it and remains so today.

I read the book a year or so before I saw the play which I saw before the film. Each one was a major event. I was introduced to the book by my friend Andrew, he always was (and still is) the most widely read guy I know… in fact I’m overdue some recommended reading from him. Brilliant he said. It was as I’ve already said, like nothing I’d read before, incredible.

I saw the play in Shepherds Bush with Ewan Bremner as Renton, it was raw and brilliant. We saw the play again in the West End, bigger budget, and brilliant again.

I thought I knew what to expect when I went to see the film in Hammersmith. I underestimated how good it would be, and this was a film I’d already expected to be amazing.

The story revolves around Mark Renton, a junkie and his social misfit friends Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) a cocky confident ladies man; Spud (Ewan Bremner), Marks best friend and a hopeless case; psychopathic Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and nice guy Tommy (Kevin McKidd). The film follows their meaningless lives as Renton tries, fails, tries and eventually succeeds in kicking his habit. Kelly MacDonald also plays a pivotal role as Diane, Rentons school age girlfriend. She is the catalyst for Renton to make a positive change in his life… but for how long?

The film shows their junkie lives as fun and enjoyable, as Renton says in his voice over: “Why else would we do it?” But it also shows how sordid, dirty and depressing the scene undoubtedly is.

 A simple premise but it is so well written by John Hodge from that incredible book by Irvine Welsh. The script captures all the dark, sad, scary, violent and incredibly funny moments from the book. It also has a thick vein of black humour running through it; and it’s this humour that offsets the dark moments and allows us to enjoy the ride.  

The cast are all fantastic in career making and career defining roles, delivering the dialogue seamlessly and with real purpose. It is impossible to single anyone out as they are perfect in their roles; however Ewan McGregor pulls off the impossible by making us like and care about Renton; and Robert Carlyle is terrifyingly real as Begbie.

The film though belongs to Danny Boyle. He was helped by the great script and once-in-a-lifetime cast but he brings it all together with style. The camera angles and set-ups take you inside this world and the fluidity of movement keeps the film constantly flowing, there is never a moment where we are waiting for something to happen. It’s always happening, all the time. Boyle has been compared to Tarantino whenever this film is mentioned; it came out just after Pulp Fiction. That comparison is unwarranted and unfair for as good a director that Tarantino is, or was as he’s faded of late, Boyle is far better. Boyle has never made the same film twice, let alone remade it again and again as Tarantino appears to be doing. Boyle is a master; he proved it with his debut ‘Shallow Grave’ and again since Trainspotting with ’28 Days Later’, ‘Sunshine’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘128 Hours’ .

The advertising campaign in the UK was exceptional; Trainspotting posters appeared everywhere and on every teenage bedroom wall up and down the country.

Trainspotting is the zeitgeist film of the 90’s; it captures the sounds and feel of the era like no other movie of the decade. Incredible, essential, timeless, genius… if you haven’t seen it, see it now.

“…index pension, tax exemption, clearing gutters, getting by, looking ahead the day you die…”

Quality: 5 out of 5 stars

Any good: 5 out of 5 stars