Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Kelly MacDonald, Peter Mullan,
Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a starter home. Choose dental insurance, leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose your future. But why would anyone want to do a thing like that?
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After the debut success of Shallow Grave (dir. Danny Boyle), Danny Boyle’s next film would prove to be one of the best he’s done in a career that has nearly spanned for two decades. Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle) is gritty and surreal, while maintaining humour and heart and still stands to be one of the greatest films of all time.
Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel with the same name, the film’s story is filled with a number of unusual characters and how their addiction to hard drugs is affecting their livelihood.
The story follows Renton (Ewan McGregor) as he tries to get clean from his use of hard drugs and the audience sees how he is trying to cope with substitutes and new ways to get himself clean. However, it’s not easy for Renton as some of his friends still take drugs and tempting him to get back into the scene, while his mates that don’t take drugs try as hard as they can to keep him away.
While the story remains simple and easy to follow, it’s told in such a dark and surreal way that it never gets boring nor loses the interest in all of these weird characters, including hard-hitting Begbie (Robert Carlyle), sex-driven school girl Diane (Kelly Macdonald) and hopeless drug addict Spud (Ewen Bremner). This is a film that I went to see with no idea what the story was about and it completely took me by surprise on how engaging all of the characters are.
Compared with all his other films, Danny Boyle has chosen some very interesting ways to make the screenplay come to life, his collaboration with the other crew members and what made the film really stand out from most that are made in the UK.
The use of filmmaking techniques that are used in surreal and art house films is a very interesting element used for this film and the reason why it makes it very engaging is because the audience gets a strong idea of what affects drugs could have on people and how they could see the world around them. A great scene to use as an example is when Renton is trying to get alternative drugs (in the form of suppositories) from an extremely filthy toilet and he is then sucked into it, which looks very much like a moment from the Alice in Wonderland book. He is then swimming in a clean ocean, swims down happily to retrieve his drugs and swims back up towards a light, which then cuts to him crawling out of the dirty toilet. The use of surrealism is a great way for the crew to show off their talents and they manage to pull of some skills so great that I was curious how they managed to do it.
Danny Boyle’s direction to give cinematographer Brian Tufano (who has also done cinematography for East is East (dir. Damien O’Donnell), Billy Elliot (dir. Stephen Daldry) and A Life Less Ordinary (dir. Danny Boyle)) is very interesting to watch, with his pitch-perfect framing and the numerous types of shots being very varied. Tufano’s cinematography truly shines with the skills from editor Masahiro Hirakubo (who edited The Beach (dir. Danny Boyle), Bullet Boy (dir. Saul Dibb) and The Duchess (dir. Saul Dibb)). The talents behind these three key crew members have helped to make the film truly beautiful to look at and one fine example is the opening scene, with Hirakubo’s editing Tufano’s footage to match with the rhythm in the music and get an immediate idea that these characters are already in a deep situation.
As for John Hodge’s screenplay, the director had some truly great material to work from and with the two collaborating before on Shallow Grave, they have managed to make another great piece of cinema. In fact, even after the release of this film, Hodge continued to write other films for Boyle and these were the director’s only two American films, which are A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.
Overall, Trainspotting is one of the best character-driven, surreal and drug-related films I’ve ever seen and it’s great to see how Danny Boyle got his directing career in America and managed to make some of the best genre films. While very few people may find this too dark and a bit disturbing, just remember: there’s a reason why this is continually seen in nearly every best films of all time lists.