Review by Chris Olson
Danny Boyle’s notoriously brilliant drama starring Ewan McGreggor as a heroin addict in Edinburgh, who attempts to free himself of his substance dependence. Renton (McGreggor) is a full-time heroin addict. His involvement in the drug scene spans all aspects, from the recreational use of the substance, to the crimes committed in order to pay for the habit. His friends are also mostly users, as well as deadbeats. However, after one too many nasty accidents, Renton vows to rid himself of his addiction, hoping to avoid time in prison, or a worse fate. Unfortunately for Renton, his former life as a junkie is just as difficult to shed as his heroin dependency, and his old buddies continue to haunt his attempts at forging a new life for himself.
From an extraordinary director, Trainspotting captures a darkly hilarious atmosphere to this small group living in Scotland during the heyday of heroin. The starkly bare and tragic lives that these addicts live is represented in both physical and emotional terms throughout the film, and it is the vulnerability of these characters which makes for the most conflicting aspect. Renton is a very likable character, with some witty narration during the film and some very funny lines to his mates, but his delusions about the scale of his problem are quite scary. One of Renton’s friends, called Begbie (Robert Carlyle), is violently disturbed, but not a drug user. His addiction to confrontation and aggression is seemingly more destructive than drug taking, and his reliance on Renton for a better life is a terrifying relationship to watch unfold.
Music is chosen well in this film, using some great tracks from the likes of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and Underworld. These artists, and their connections to drug scenes, is unmistakable, and gives the movie a great deal of authenticity. The film has some pretty heavy themes, which are unavoidable given the plot, but there are a few moments of happiness which emerge, and give the viewer a more rounded viewing experience. Such as: the group’s enduring bonds to each other, their commitment to their addictions, and their unyielding creativity when it comes to staying high. One of the best films I have watched from my 50 Films To See list, and probably the best performances I have ever seen Ewan McGreggor and Robert Carlyle give.