Movie Review: Trainspotting (1996)

Title: Trainspotting
Release Date: 23 February 1996
Director: Danny Boyle
Production Company: Channel Four Films | Figment Films | Noel Gay Motion Picture Company

While I’d never been tempted to try heroin, watching harrowing depiction of heroin users and their struggles with addiction in Trainspotting in the 1990s made it clear that I never would.  Unlike and after-school special, the movie is honest about the pleasure of the heroin high while also showing the grim realities of low-income lives in Edinburgh they are trying to escape.  Despite all this, the movie is also funny, stylish, and has a banging soundtrack.

Ewan McGregor (who looks impossibly young now) plays Mark Renton, a heroin addict in a friend group that includes the slimy Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), the dumb but kind Spud (Ewen Bremmer), the sociopathic Begbie (Robert Carlyle) who drinks a lot but rails against doing drugs, and Tommy (Kevin McKidd) who is athletic and into clean living.  The movie is episodic, dealing with Rentons efforts to go cold turkey, an overdose, and finale that is basically a short heist movie.  Renton also forms a relationship with Diane (Kelly Macdonald), a girl he picks up at a dance club not realizing she is a teenager.

I was intrigued by the end of the film having a parallel to A Clockwork Orange when Renton admits that he is not a good person but he lives in our society and we’re going to have to deal with him.  Stylistically this is a fantastically made film that brought Danny Boyle to worldwide attention.  It also made McGregor a star and was the debut film for McDonald.  Even Robert Carlyle (who is a decade older than the rest of the main cast, I never figured out why Begbie is hanging out with younger people) got a career boost for his terrifyingly evil portrayal.  As noted above, the soundtrack is amazing with a mix of glam rock, Britpop, and 90s club music.

It’s definitely a movie that holds up to my good opinion from watching it decades ago.

Rating: ****1/2