Reviewed: Trainspotting (1996,Danny Boyle)

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Danny Boyle’s disturbed reflection on the 1990s is perhaps the harshest, yet most realistic depiction of youth placed on film. A true cultural depiction of drug addicts and their impact on society, the film never seems to shy away from the harshness of the lifestyle, and the corrupt nature of those embedded within it. ‘Trainspotting’ is not an easy watch, however it is still deeply mesmerising in how the exploits of five troubled individuals intercept each other, and damage those with which they interact. Placed to a soundtrack that embodies the chaotic lifestyle of its focus, Boyle’s film allows for a maturity to be needed from the audience, which pays  with one of the most iconic films to have ever been produced within Britain.

Although it features an ensemble of 5 different characters – as well as many supporting roles that build up the depth of the narrative – ‘Trainspotting’ is firstly a character study of Mark Renton. Portrayed by Ewan McGregor (the largest name to have come out of this film), Renton narrates the production, and through his perception of events shapes the content of the piece. A heroin addict stuck on the path of life, Renton deals with loss and danger presented in the form of his four friends. By allowing the focus to lie solely on this damaged individual, Boyle delves deep into the psyche of a societal landscape unknown to most observers. With four contrasting characters feeding into this singular narrative, ‘Trainspotting’ allows for a wider appreciation of the drug world to become apparent – but never forces the emotional cores antiquity to be spread thin over the development of unlikeable personas. First and foremost this is Renton’s narrative, and one that delivers without the need to full back on those with which it features.

Like his previous film ‘Shallow Grave’, Danny Boyle shows a true aesthetic quality with regard his depiction of Britain – even though the subject matter is both harsh and deep. Using moments of lewdness fleetingly, the affect is maximised to form a coherent dislike to what is being explored. This is testament also to the original source material, but under careful handling Boyle manages to formulate how his audience should react and does so with great success. Some scenes are strange, but through their inclusion the messed up world in which the narrative exists is fully appreciated onscreen. With this film and others, Boyle has shown himself competent in branching the line of controversy in a manner which best attributes the film production.  This is perhaps best seen in the scenes involving Robert Carlyle’s Begbie – a sociopath with no moral code gallivanting throughout the narrative in a manner which although never glamourising, is equally not condemned.

Although dated, ‘Trainspotting’ is one of the finest examples of British cinema, due to its blend of fully developed characters, a progressive plot and a medley of club anthems that brings about a true reflection of the society it explores. An anthem of the age, Boyle’s disturbing but deeply engrossing tale of consequence showcases the darker aspect of humanity, summarised in the death of the baby and the presentation of Kelly Macdonald’s underage character – each depicting a different fallout in Renton’s life choice. 

Plot – 3.5

Acting – 4

Direction – 4

Effects – 3.5

Retrospect – 3

Overall – 3.5

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