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UK 1996
Directed by
Danny Boyle
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Packed with tons of energy, catchy visual stylings, a tip-top pop soundtrack and great characters, Trainspotting is a vast advance on Boyle’s first feature, Shallow Grave, undoubtedly due in part at least to the inspiration and strength of the original writing in Irvine Welsh’s cult novel, adapted for the screen by John Hodge who wrote Shallow Grave and has remained Boyle's regular collaborator

Ewan McGregor, in the role that kick-started his career (he had also been in Shallow Grave) plays Mark Renton, a deeply disaffected young Glaswegian, who, as per the punchy opening sequence, intentionally chooses not to live the straight life mapped out for him. Instead he throws his lot in with a disreputable bunch of layabouts (also career kick-starting roles for Ewen Bremner as a hopeless junkie, Spud, and Robert Carlyle as Begbie, a nutter with a serious anger management problem) and Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, the most charismatic member of the group. The plot which focuses on Renton and his on-again-off-again relationship with heroin and his disreputable mates is often very funny whilst 'Rents' voice-over which holds the episodic story together has a dryly ironic tone strongly reminiscent of that of Alex's in A Clockwork Orange (1971)

One of the ironies of film is that it makes reprehensible/tragic behaviour and events rather ingenuously entertaining, and this tendency, if nothing more, brought Trainspotting into a certain disrepute (compare, for instance the far more downbeat depiction of drug use in precursors such as Drugstore Cowboy (1989) and The Basketball Diaries (1995), whilst Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream (2000) would wipe the smile off anyone's face who might think that smack was cool. Even so, one would be hard-pushed to call Trainspotting an advertisement for a junkie's lifestyle, which the film makes clear, for the typical user means squalor, sickness, and for those who stay with it, ultimately, death.

Notwithstanding, it is a vibrant film, and as Iggy Pop more or less said, sometimes we need some weird sin to relax with. Trainspotting is just what the devilish doctor ordered.




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