Trainspotting Review

Trainspotting is a 1996 dark comedy drama written by John Hodge/Irvine Welsh and directed by Danny Boyle, who would later go on to direct Slumdog Millionaire. The movie has gained a large amount critical praise and a dedicated cult following. It's also one of the few internationally recognized non-Hollywood films.

There isn't much structure to this movie. Most of the film is just going through the life of recovering drug addict Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his friends as they go through many misadventures. It has a main goal in the last 20 mins of the movie, but it feels really out of place compared to the rest of the film, which was just Renton dealing with his drug addiction.

The film has the demonization of drug use very much at the forefront. Horrible things happen to those who are constantly using heroin; a baby dies from her abandoning mother's lack of attention, somebody who starts heroin halfway through the film gets HIV and dies from it, etc. The theme is a warning against addiction and there's a really good scene that highlights this: four of the main characters are having little sexual expeditions and it's all fine and dandy, but then when they wake up the next morning they each have a terrible side effect or result, much like drug addiction. Thankfully, though, this film understands why people can get addicted to this stuff; because it's fun. The entire first monologue at the beginning of the movie is Renton talking about how good the drugs make him feel. This is important to understand if you want to accurately portray drug addiction and what people go through to get rid of it, which the movie seems to want to do.

You'd think it'd be really hard to relate to a bunch of low down tweekers, but you do sympathize with them in the end. You want to see Renton get rid of his addiction because you know he could be happy if he just tried. It's almost like watching a toddler trying to get up on his feet and failing miserably; you still root for him but it's hard to watch.

IMDB characterizes this film as a dark comedy, which is weird to me because I don't remember myself laughing a whole lot. The screenplay does drama way better than it tells jokes. Maybe it's because I'm not usually one for dark comedies or maybe I was supposed to laugh at how stupid all the characters were, but I only laughed at a few parts, but was grossly intrigued by the rest of it.

The set design is part of what sells the "drugs will ruin your whole life" message that the film is pushing; it looks awful. What I mean is the set design is amazing at making everything look disgusting. There's a scene where they go to "the worst toilet in Scotland" and it really does look like the worst toilet in Scotland. It's symbolic of the slimy, crap filled existence that spawns from a life of drug addiction. Renton's apartment also fits the bill, with holes in the walls, ripped carpeting and rotten floorboards. This also adds the the idea of heroin as a life destroyer, because when he starts to recover from it his surroundings get cleaner and more hospitable. The costume design also does this; when he's on heroin Renton wheres shabby, dirty clothing, but when he's recovering his clothes look cleaner.

The colors also help tell the story, to a point. The clothes of the characters, for example, are colored to match their personality or state of life. For example, there's one friend in Renton's group who doesn't do drugs, but he's a rageaholic. He wears bright red clothes while all his drug addict friends wear muted yellows and greys, showing their dirty, hazy way of life. I can't figure out what a lot of the set colors are telling, though. In many of the scenes in Renton's old apartment there are a lot of Wes Anderson-like colors that pop out from the screen. It looks cool, but I'm not sure there's any purpose to it.

The acting is brilliant all around. This is the most I've seen out of Ewan McGregor in his entire career. He didn't impress me in either the Star Wars prequels (though he did at least try, let's give him credit) or Ghost Writer (but again that entire movie was kind of forgettable so you can't really blame him). This showed me what a great actor McGregor could be and I'm a bit disappointed that he's such an underutilized source in Hollywood. When he's on screen I don't see Ewan McGregor. I see a lost soul trying to find his way through drugs.

Summary: This film is not for the weak in constitution nor those afraid of needles. However, it is a great illustration of addiction and the nihilism and struggle that comes with it. I believe it's not only a great movie, but also an important one. Will I go and see the sequel? Maybe when it's on DVD so I can skip all the drug parts.



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