Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) lives in a rundown section of Edinburgh, where drugs, crime, and violent are widespread. Renton isn’t above these elements however, instead he indulges in them with minimal remorse. His battle with an addiction to heroin has taken a toll on him, but there is no end in sight for the abuse. His friends aren’t supportive either, as they’re just as involved in the dank, hopeless world he lives in. The world around these youths has jobs, hope, and chances to make a better life, but these things are spurned instead of embraced. Renton and his buddies, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Tommy (Kevin McKidd), and the ultraviolent Begbie (Robert Carlyle) all choose to live in the darker corners of their town, though Tommy has avoided most of the pitfalls of his friends. Renton also has a girlfriend of sorts, a fourteen year old girl named Diane (Kelly MacDonald), whom he slept with at a wild throw down. But time has worn down Renton and with a future that looks totally dismal, he makes a serious decision. He is going to swear off drugs and start a normal life, no matter what that takes. Of course, he has promised this to himself and others before, with each time ending in failure. But can this time be the real time for Renton to move on, or will he slide back into his old ways?
A movie about delinquents, heroin addiction, and sex with underage girls, eh? Not the kind of movie you’d think would win over audiences and gain critical acclaim, but “Trainspotting” did just that and then some. A modern landmark, the film shocked viewers with dark, graphic images, but didn’t leave them cold. At the same time, critics lauded the writing, direction, and performances, so the movie was a smash on both sides. “Trainspotting” deals with some very dark, depressing topics, such as addiction, death, and total loss of hope. I doubt you’ll relate to the characters, at least I hope you don’t, since none are likable. Some might seem better than others, but no one in “Trainspotting” rises above the level of drug laden derelict. Even so, you’re sucked into the film’s world, as nasty and repulsive as it can be at times. I wouldn’t recommend this to those in search of uplifting cinema, but for fans of hard, dark pictures, this one’s all you. The film does have moments of light, including some hilarious sequences, but even those are often based in darker sources. Like when a wild night of drugs and random sex ends when a character wakes up and realizes he has shit all over himself, at his conquest’s parents’ home. The movie is powerful, no doubt about it and in this new two disc edition, its more worthwhile than ever.
He has become quite a mainstream star in recent times, but before he was so famous, Ewan McGregor was in this film. He had garnered some attention for his previous turns, but he was put on the map by his work in “Trainspotting”. His turn here is hands down the finest of his career, one that holds back nothing and never slows down. The intense highs and lows make this a high difficulty role, but McGregor knocks it out of the park. He has the internal mechanisms on full blast, to bring across emotions and feelings we can’t see in his physical presence, but we know are there, quite impressive indeed. The role requires him to go over the top at times, such as when drug use is involved, but this is still a controlled role. He is also asked to do some bold actions, such as nudity and some lively sex scenes, but he is up to the task. In his more recent efforts, McGregor has fallen into more mainstream pictures, ones that require little of his talent. This is a true shame, as he has a lot to offer, but is often wasted by these simple movies. But even a dozen movies like Big Fish or Down with Love can’t erase his superb turn here, no doubt about it. His other films include Velvet Goldmine, Moulin Rouge, Rogue Trader, and Black Hawk Down.
Video: How does it look?
It’s been a while since I’ve seen “Trainspotting” and with its release on Blu-ray this 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer has certainly made some improvements from the standard DVD. The overall palette is a bit on the dismal side, either because it was filmed in Europe and/or to mirror the world of drug addiction. Any way you slice it, there aren’t too many bright colors in this film (don’t let the box art fool you). Detail seems to be about average and I think I caught the slightest trace of edge enhancement, but it’s not enough to really detract from the presentation. There’s also a bit of grain on the print as well. Don’t let all of these nitpicks get you down, it’s still a very good-looking transfer for this film but certainly not up to the standards that some of the newer movies have set.
Audio: How does it sound?
“Trainspotting” reels you into the film within the first few seconds with its alluring soundtrack. The DTS HD Master Audio mix is far and away the best the movie has ever sounded and this soundtrack makes full use of all of your channels. Vocals are strong, though I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a bit hard to tell what some of the actors are actually saying (notably Robert Carlysle’s “Begbie”), though this certainly isn’t a fault of the sound mix. The front stage does take the brunt of the sound, but surrounds are active enough in that you’re in for a good listening experience.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This Blu-ray contains the same supplements that the previous Miramax “Collector’s Edition” DVD had. We find some deleted scenes, complete with optional audio comments, as well as a feature length audio commentary session. The comments from director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew MacDonald, writer John Hodge, and star Ewan McGregor are taken from older interviews, so this is kind of an unusual session. Even so, there is a lot of good information revealed, so fans won’t be disappointed. A “Trainspotting” Retrospective, a collection of four featurettes, none of which are that substantial or in depth. You’ll get a look behind the scenes and see some cast & crew interviews, but given the film’s success, I would expect a more polished behind the scenes retrospective. This release also includes a handful of other brief featurettes, a selection of talent files, a slideshow of behind the scenes photos, and the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers. There is a digital copy of the film as well.