Trainspotting (1996) Review

Shot on an indie budget, “Trainspotting” was a brash, foul-mouthed, grotty little movie with blockbuster sized ambition. Wilfully anarchic and wildly spirited, it proved to be a real shot in the arm for a British film industry pigeonholed by Merchant Ivory dramas and sickly sweet rom-coms.

trainspotting review

The story of four junkies: Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sickboy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewan Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) skulking around the Edinburgh underclass delivered a blisteringly candid, blackly humorous and deeply human look at the realities of drug addiction and social deprivation.

Like its source novel, “Trainspotting” defies conventional narrative structure, eschewing a cohesive plot in favour of an episodic, anecdotal approach. Director Danny Boyle mixes things up even further by adopting a non-linear approach to the vignettes and infusing the deprivation and desperation on show with an energetically colourful and aggressive shooting style more suited to music videos than gritty and unflinching social commentary. The result is a world of pure intoxication for the senses. “Trainspotting” is a film you plunge into, only occasionally managing to come up for breath as it pushes boundaries and tears down cosy illusions of everyday life to revel in the gutter.

Ironically for a film that sets out to be so determinedly iconoclastic, it’s almost effortlessly iconic itself. From its marketing to its blockbuster soundtrack, for many, the film defines 90s British cinema for many and made a bona fide superstar out of Ewan McGregor and cemented director Danny Boyle as a filmmaker of real note.

Simultaneously darkly glamorising and yet unflinchingly demystifying the hedonistic and parasitic lifestyle of the drug-addicted underclass, it still retains much of its power even though it feels rooted in the 90s thanks to its profound impact at the time. Often uncomfortable yet occasionally laugh-out-loud hysterical, “Trainspotting” is one of the few films which really earns its place on the list of films you must have seen.

Score 8

8/10 

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