Trainspotting

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For those who have ever witnessed someone in the depths hard drug withdrawal, there will be a definite understanding between the viewer and the group of junkies in Danny Boyle’s 1996 film Trainspotting. They are sick, depraved, and (worst of all) ignorant characters, but as any addict in denial will do, they build themselves up as masters of their own universe. This accurate portrayal, more than anything else in the film, is the reason why Trainspotting is such a monumental experience. It captures a place in time that doesn’t age, captures the brutal soul of the drug culture and puts no sugarcoated filter over it.

The film’s twisted protagonist, Renton (Ewan McGregor), takes the viewer through his life with his group of backward cronies. McGregor’s performance throughout the movie is pinpoint accurate from the opening scenes of fleeing from the police, to his dive into the worst toilet in Scotland, to the drug-addled seizures and psychotic episodes on the floor of his decrepit apartment. As the story progresses, Renton’s companions Spud (Ewen Bremmer), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), all giving landmark performances, become something of a mirror for him to observe and explain to the viewer. This third-person observation gives the film a unique insight into the psychology behind their consistently insane actions, such as a mother shooting up heroin with a child in her lap and stealing from and progressively fleeing from a bookshop.
The story takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland, which Renton describes as “the lowest of the low.” By the conclusion of the film, his sentiment seems all too true as the viewer is dragged into the bowels of the city. The scenes in which Renton and crew peruse the city in search of the next perverted adventure are the most effective portrayal of each character’s individual role in the overall arch of the story. Spud, being the dopy and innocent one of the group, becomes a punching bag, while Tommy remains the ignorant optimist, despite the awful chain of events involving Sick Boy’s child and Bagbie’s sporadic hyper violent outbursts. Trainspotting is not so much about the events of the story, but rather how the characters react to them. Each performance by the crew carry the film and accentuate the impact of Irvine Welsh’s message from the book the film is based upon.
In a film with characters deprived of any rational events or human morality, there is a serious amount of logical subtext. With a Fight Club-like outlook on the material world at large, it uses the story telling medium of the heroin addicts to personify the anarchistic rebellion by adults brought up with the Ikea-nesting instinct. Renton’s monologue in the beginning of the film sums up, in less than thirty seconds, the direction the film will be heading. He chose life over material possessions, and his explanation is exactly what one would expect from a drug fiend, because “who needs reasons when you have heroin.” This atavistic desire to abstain from the modern product-driven world remains an underlying theme of the film as each character slowly falls away from society’s view of what is native and acceptable.
In simplest terms, Trainspotting is a scarily relatable film for those who care to take a look at the meat and bones of it, as opposed to the outward presentation of it. Many mistake it for a shameless drug film, never taking in the brilliant characters and storytelling of it. With exceptional music choice and cinematography woven with John Hodge’s Oscar nominated screenplay, Danny Boyle created a masterpiece of modern cinema by combining all the necessary elements of a film and adding his own stylistic touches. There is a sense of completion and understanding as the film concludes with Renton’s final insight into the human psyche that will undoubtedly leave the viewer with more to think about than expected.

I give Trainspotting five babies crawling on the ceiling out of five.





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