Trainspotting (1996) (R)
A movie about betrayal, withdrawal, and—most of all—addiction, Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting" is a brutal movie about heroin uses. The movie balances between a comedy, drama, and horror film many times. The result is an entertaining, frightening, unapologetic work that seems to be one of the inspirations for Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream".
Drugs are common in movies, cocaine use can date back a long time; but in this time period cinema started seeing films that pulled back the facade of drug use. It was no longer a controllable affliction...it was now portrayed as a commanding personality that forced all who partook in it to obey its whims. To put it in perspective, look at how Tarantino handles drugs in "Pulp Fiction" and then look at how Boyle handles it in "Trainspottting". The difference is staggering, even though the films were only separated by two years. Of course, four years after Boyle's film would come Aronofsky's and Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic"...then drug movie sub-genre would slowly die off. This isn't to say that there aren't drug movies still being made, just none have received the popular and critical acclaim like the films from the late 90s and early 2000s did.
And if we're talking about drugs—which, if we weren't, we are now—you can't have a conversation without talking about "Trainspotting". It's a vicious little piece, not hesitating from showing almost everything...which also adds to the controversy surrounding the movie.
You see needles penetrate skin, careless nudity, the process of getting heroin into the bodies, and the ramifications of taking the drug.
The main character is Renton (Ewan McGregor), a young man wanting to be rid of his addiction, yet looking for just the next fix. His whole life is revolving around his drug use. He has no job, no girlfriend, and no reason to stop him from plunging head into the deep wonders of drugs.
He likens a the highs and lows to sexual climaxes...except exponentially most potent. There is a slight Freudian style to the way the movie is shot.
The film is based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, concerning the doings of drug addicted friends.
True to its source material, Renton is surrounded by junkies and losers. They are his friends and cohorts...they understand what he's going through.
As Renton struggles with giving up his drugs and reclaiming his life, obstacle after obstacle is thrown at him to prevent him. It becomes a movie about survival.
For all intents and purposes "Trainspotting"is incredibly visual and disturbing in that way. There are babies whose heads turns around, "Exorcist"-style; a scene that involves a toilet; and many, many moments of shooting up.
"Trainspotting" contains burtal moments, funny moments, and all those in between.
It's hard to really connect with the picture because the emotions swing from high to low so quickly...but I think this is what makes the film great.
It's about life...as corny as that may sound; but life seen through the eyes of a heroin addict. Some moments are depressing, though seen filtered through humor...others are vice versa. Renton has to cope by using heroin....when tragedy strikes, it's the first thing he reaches for.
This film is pre-Anthony Dod Mantle. The cinematography is by Brian Tufano and it's perfectly Danny Boyle-esque.
The film is inherently sad, with a lining of happiness...it rings true of Boyle's newest film "Trance".
Whether it be the actions of teenager junkies, or the reckless habits of an adult madman..."Trainspotting" is shameless in what it shows. It's also much harder to watch than I remember it being.
The feud between McGregor and Boyle is infamous by now, yet it seemed to have happened post-filming. Whatever the reason was, it didn't impact the performances. The movie loves the thick accents and the rapid speaking...it borders on incoherent many times.
Still, any reference to drug movies would be incomplete without mentioning "Trainspotting" and when you witness the hypnotic and colorfully grimy world that Boyle creates, you understand why.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones