152 of 164 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2003
I'd like to begin this review with my pre-viewing expectations - - ZILCH! I had never heard of this movie, had not viewed the trailer or read the box, I just sat down on my sofa as my husband pressed "play" on the remote and jumped right in with both feet. The first few minutes made me squirm, I was thinking "oh no, a movie glorifying drugs, with lots of F-words and thick accents", but the narration of the main character, Mark Renton, was intellectually stimulating, so I listened more closely and allowed myself to become immersed in the story. The characters in this story are ugly, heroin-addicted losers, but they are portrayed as very real people - - yes, they are bad, but they are not evil. Their lives are extremely grim and repugnant. I've always wondered how people addicted to heroin can live their lives thinking they are living normally, and the addiction is so powerful it renders them powerless to live any other way, but then I realized almost anything can be considered an addiction - - we all wrestle with something, be it our weight, our ethics, our punctuality, etc.. Moments when we convince ourselves it will be the last time, until the next time.
The film makes some interesting comparisons between a "normal" life, and the twisted lives of these characters. You notice small hypocrisies, such as the friend in the pub railing against drug use, while he obviously has an alcohol and an anger-management problem. This film also addresses the issues of loyalty, culture, politics - - with some scathing commentary on consumerism and capitalism - - and some digs at the "Just Say No" and "Choose Life" rallying cries. I particularly liked the ending - - there were no sweeping revelations for the characters, they remained true to their weaknesses, true to their characters.
There are plenty of sad, sick moments, and there are some very funny moments, even through the darkness, and the wit of each character is fantastic. Some of the most imaginative sequences I enjoyed immensely, but felt as though they could've done without the extremism and still kept a good flowing story. Still, they certainly made a strong point in the scene involving the most disgusting toilet in Scotland. As for the dialogue, I am going to have to watch it again, just to make sure I caught it all. My husband and I finally admitted we weren't understanding the dialogue as fully as we would've liked, so we switched to the "hearing-impaired" sub-titles about 30 minutes into the film. The Scottish accents are the thickest!
The acting is terrific, across the board. I was shocked - - just flabbergasted! - - as the film ended and I saw Ewan McGregor was Mark Renton! He looked so gaunt and ill, not the charming and handsome Ewan McGregor of 'Moulin Rouge'!
Definitely not a movie for the kids, 'Trainspotting' is a film everyone should see once, even if the topic is unsettling. Plus, I give it extra stars for utilizing my favorite descriptive noun - - "wanker". I also appreciated the integration of Iggy Pop's song "Lust for Life", knowing that it was written after Iggy had kicked his heroin habit and had a newfound lust for life. I'm just glad to hear that song used anywhere other than car commercials!
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2000
Is the rhetorical question asked by Renton (Ewan McGregor) early on in the movie. That sums up the complete hold that heroin exerts on the lives of main characters of the movie and the horrendous consequences of this addiction.
I have heard that Trainspotting has been criticized as glorifing drugs. People making this comment must be out of their minds. I have never seen such a powerful indictment of heroin and its effects and I ever had any inclination to try the stuff then a single viewing of the movie cured me forever.
Most movies that I watch leave no lasting impression on me but many of the scenes in Trainspotting will stay with me for a very long time. There are moments that make you laugh out loud (Spud's job interview for example) and others that are some of the most powerful and disturbing film images that I have ever seen.
Danny Boyle and co. have do a marvellous job of making a film about real people and real lives while making it compelling viewing at the same time. The soundtrack is excellent just to round off the experience.
85 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2002
While there is definitely a form of macabre humor to this tail, "Trainspotting," one of the most brilliant films to come out of Britain in decades, is no laughing matter.
It captures an entire voice--a feeling--a depth of despair among a group of disaffected, addicted, hopeless young men in the slums of Edinburgh. Having been in Scotland many times, and known young men of this age, I found this grim portrait all the more frightening and heartbreaking. They are essentially beautiful young men (some of them, anyway) who are casually and uncaringly dying while injecting themselves unflinchingly with heroine.
No part of the heroine experience is hidden from the viewer, and I advise those who don't want to share the experience to avoid this movie. For the hovels, toilets, dingy bars, and alleys where these mates shoot up, and the close-up of the bloody needles, the mixing of the drug, and every other horror, is unrelenting. Add in the fear of AIDS, some hopelessly mindless and unfulfilling sex, a dead baby, real and hallucinated, and you have some idea of the nature of this film.
So what makes it so brilliant? Everything. From the acting of Ewan MacGregor et al. to the spare script, to the photography, to every last detail, this is the quintessential picture of despair in the true noir sense. It is very hard to watch, very hard to think about--but is an experience not to be missed, and it is one that does not leave you anytime soon.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2006
Its setting and subject matter were somewhat grim to put it mildly, but that didn't stop Trainspotting from becoming one of the top movies of the nineties, and having just watched it this morning I can safely state that it holds up well to this day. While I haven't read the Irvine Welsh novel on which this movie is based, I have read some of his other work, and the movie is a perfect distillation of his storytelling style-rapid-fire, filled with bawdy set pieces, characters living on the edge of acceptable society, and lots and lots of swears. It's also the kind of violent, genre-defying, and pop culture reference-laden movie, complete with way-cool soundtrack, that emerged with such force in the nineties and spawned so many imitations in this decade. For my money at least, this movie is a much more entertaining and convincing look at the world of heroin users than the interesting, but annoyingly depressing and pedantic, Requiem for a Dream, which came out a few years later to almost hyperbolic praise. Trainspotting is a blunt, unapologetic look a life most of us can scarcely imagine, delivered with a combination of hilarity and horror that effortlessly intertwines these two extremes. It doesn't shrink from depicting the damage caused by heroin addiction, but it doesn't downplay all the fun of it either, which is what lends it so much of its gritty believability.
Trainspotting also marked the arrival on the international scene of director Danny Boyle, whose manic visual style would later serve him well on the slightly-less-brilliant 28 Days Later. Perhaps most impressively, it manages to contain one of my all-time top ten movie lines ("Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?"), my favorite nickname ever, fictional or otherwise ("We called him Mother Superior on account of the length of his habit"-brilliant), and more "Oh my God, did I just see that?" images than you'll find in fifty Hollywood blockbusters. In Boyle's hands the crazy imagery practically flies off the screen, be it human waste flying from a sheet across a room, the movie's protagonist climbing into Scotland's filthiest toilet to retrieve something he lost, or the hallucinatory, nightmarish haze of a cold-turkey withdrawal. The unrestrained depictions of sex, nudity, violence, drug use, and bodily functions make this a movie not to be viewed by the squeamish, but they perfectly suit its unflinching examination of the sordid goings-on in one country's drug-laden urban culture.
The action is filtered through the point of view of the movie's narrator, Mark Renton, a cynical but insightful twentysomething travelling through a nihilistic culture of nightclubs and drug dens without many concerns beyond getting his next fix because, well, all other concerns seem petty and inconsequential by comparison. Although I don't use drugs (well, the ones arbitrarily declared illegal anyway), it's not exactly hard to understand Renton's reasons-in a world as numbing as the one that surrounds him, the ephemeral rush of a heroin high is more tangible and true than most of what people use to distract themselves from their unfulfilling lives. Really, that's what the movie's about-the relentless pursuit of that elusive and nebulous concept known as happiness. Renton's not that bad a guy; he mostly just wants to score some drugs and sex and listen to some Iggy Pop, and if his lifestyle causes anyone else (i.e., his parents) to suffer, well, that's just an unfortunate byproduct. Besides, it's not like he's missing that much: the Scotland of Trainspotting is a rather depressing land of dingy, Detroit-esque post-industrial decay, and even the natural beauty of the local highlands isn't enough to overcome the cynicism that's overtaken Renton and most of his friends. Viewed against this backdrop, it's easy to ask whether the straight life is even worth it.
Although Ewan MacGregor plays Renton in career-making fashion (too bad he spent all that time on those mediocre Star Wars prequels), Robert Carlyle delivers the most immediately enjoyable performance as the menacing Begbie, an unhinged, beer-swilling psychopath who looks at heroin users with contempt but has no problem cutting a swath of destruction through any bar where someone crosses him, intentionally or not. Even though (or perhaps because) he's so violent and unpredictable, Begbie gives the movie a sort of bizarre comic relief through the sheer force of his twisted personality alone. Even though I wouldn't get within fifty feet of the guy, I couldn't help but enjoy watching him, especially with Carlyle turning in such a likably maniacal performance.
Besides, in addition to what I've written above, how can you not like a movie that features a shot of a dead baby crawling along a ceiling and rotating its head 180 degrees? If that doesn't scream fun for the whole family, I don't know what does.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2001
It's a fine film. We've already established this.
The US release of the DVD however, is not so good. There is 1 single feature on this version of the DVD, and it's the movie. At $.. (and even at the sale price), this is a rip. This was a first generation DVD, so even though the sound is Dolby 5.1, it's far from spectacular.
If you're going to buy this movie on DVD, get the Canadian Special Edition (Alliance). It contains trailers, deleted footage, and interviews, at approx $... US. And it is Region 1, NTSC. You can find it around on foreign or Canadian online DVD stores like ... or ....
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2001
After the success of Shallow Grave, the triumvirate of director Boyle, producer Andrew MacDonald and writer John Hodge didn't sell out to Hollywood and grab the barrel loads of cash on offer. Instead they decided to take on the difficult project of filming the unfilmable, namely Irving Welsh's extreme, druggy vision, Trainspotting. The Edinburgh writer's cult novel is a shocking, sickening, but also blackly hilarious voyage into his city's dark nether regions, an dso is this film.
The movie follows the fortunes of likable, suede-head junkie Mark Renton (McGregor), and his dodgy gang of sidekicks: girl magnet Sick Boy, nerd Spud, and psycho Begsbie (Robert Carlyle). Exploring the oblivion and depredation of drugs, the film treats us to delights of acute diarrhea, 'toilet diving' in the filthiest toilet in Scotland, crime, unemployment, AIDS, copious vomiting, as well as some football. One of the more direct statements made in the movie is that being Scottish sucks. What is more apparent, however, is that being a f**ked up junkie sucks.
The fact that such unpromising material makes for compelling viewing is due to the sheer talent at work in the film. The center of the movie is Renton's cynical, world-weary view: "One day their won't be men or women, just wankers".
The soundtrack, mixing the cool of Lou Reed with techno and Britpop, is not a grubby attempt to cash in, but helps the atmosphere and the pacing of the movie.
McGregor's acting is assured. His sullen, hypnotic presence is the film's heart, but he is ably assisted by the other actors, particularly Robert Carlyle's Begsbie. Irving Welsh also makes an appearance as local dealer Mother Superior so called because of the length of his habit!
Certainly this is a dark and dirty, violent and sordid movie, but it is also strangely uplifting with a hint of optimism at the end. Hamstrung by its need to constantly make deals and cover all the bases, this is the kind of movie, Hollywood is no longer able to make.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2001
As an 83 year old train spotter from Glasgow you can imagine my joy when I heard that there was a wee Scottish movie out about the long misunderdstood joys of train spotting.
I went to the cinema in town and was filled with delight as I waited in line with the spiky haired yobbos from town. I knew that my hobby would one day catch-on. They all seemed to buy an extraodinary amount of popcorn. Well, I was a little worried when I saw that Renton fellow injecting drugs into his arm - diabetic probably. Alas, there was only one train in the entire movie and they hardly even glanced at it never mind taking down all it's details. Mind you, the spiky haired chaps seemed to love it.
You should also know that "Dazed and Confused" is not about Alzheimer's as my bridge club discovered one cold October morn.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2011
Just a heads-up that the newly released Lionsgate Blu of Trainspotting is not the same version as was released on 2-Disc DVD a number of years ago. It's a mixture of the Miramax theatrical and the true Director's Cut. None of the dialogue is dubbed but the two shots edited from the US version (Diane on top of Renton and the needle going into Renton's arm) are not here. Picture is moderately better than an upconverted DVD. If you are looking for the true version seen in the UK and on the Criterion laserdisc, either hold on to your old 2-Disc DVD or seek it out used as it's now out of print. Otherwise, I would recommend paying no more than $10 for this or avoid altogether. I like Lionsgate very much but sometimes they drop the ball. This is one of those times.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2004
When Trainspotting was released in 1996, it took the world by storm and caused a sensation not only in its homeland of England, but in the United States as well. Audiences couldn't get enough of this gritty, funny tale of Scottish heroin addicts. The Criterion Collection originally released an extras-packed laserdisc. Miramax subsequently released a bare bones edition on DVD and have now, finally, gone back to the well with a new "Definitive Version."
The first disc features an audio commentary that first appeared on the Criterion laserdisc with actor Ewan McGregor, director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald. This is a very informative track with excellent insights by everyone as one would expect from Criterion.
There are also nine deleted scenes with optional commentary from the Criterion laserdisc. Most of it is extra footage that unnecessarily explained things and provided more information than needed.
The second disc contains the bulk of the extra material. "Retrospective" examines various aspects of the film with interviews done at the time of production and brand new ones conducted last year with Boyle, Hodge and Macdonald.
"Behind the Needle" shows a scene where Renton shoots up from three different angles with video commentary from Danny Boyle.
There is also vintage footage from the movie's screening at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. A camera crew interviews Martin Landau, Oasis' Noel Gallagher, Blur's Damon Albarn and Ewan McGregor as they exit the screening and offer their impressions of what they saw. Nothing too substantial here but it is a nice snapshot of the times.
There is also a teaser and theatrical trailers.
"The Making of Trainspotting" featurette was done at the time of the production. It is pretty standard electronic press kit material but still well made.
There are biographies of the cast and crew.
And finally, a gallery of production Polaroids mainly of extras from the movie with some cast included as well.
Trainspotting has aged surprisingly well considering it was one of those zeitgeist-defining movies. It also set the tone and style of later British exports like Snatch. Miramax has assembled an excellent DVD with a crystal clear transfer and a decent collection of extras that fans of this film will enjoy for hours.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2000
"Trainspotting" is another film that proves the vitality and originality of the British cinema. The film pulsates with energy, talent and an understanding of the heroin scene. This is by-and-far one of the great modern British films. "Trainspotting" is a film, that along with "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", proves that the American film industry does not run the entire business.
Upon a viewing of Danny Boyle's 1996 film "Trainspotting" you will laugh in hysterics, revolt in horror, gasp in excitement and feel sick with disgust. Any movie that can bring about such an array of emotions has to be a high quality, well made film. "Trainspotting" is just that. It shows us a world that most of us have never experienced (thankfully) but does exist and needs to be documented. It takes no liberties, pulls no stops and presents it to us in such a stark, gripping and entertaining manner that we end up feeling that we too have somehow lived that live.
Some people bashed this film, saying it condoned the use of drugs. This quite simply is ridiculous. Just because the film doesn't preach at us and try to influence our views and merely shows us this life, doesn't mean it condones drug usage. The film assumes we can figure out for ourselves that this is no way to live and I think most of us did. If anything the film makes us want to stay away from drugs.
The story is about a group of five friends in Edinburgh, Scotland: Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy, Spud and Tommy. Three of the lads are addicted to heroin but only Renton seems to have any interest in kicking the habit. The lads fall in and out of many situations throughout the film including AIDS, prison and a hilarious happening involving a tape of Tommy and his girlfriend. But no matter what they're up to, the most important thing is always heroin. All their actions revolve around it whether it be getting it, doing it, selling it or kicking it.
A police officer I met, who works the drug/slum area in Vancouver said that this film was the most realistic portrayal of addicts he had ever seen and from what I know I'd have to agree with him. "Drugstore Cowboy" is the only other film I can think of that tackles the drug culture so realistically.
The acting is fantastic, with Ewan McGregor as Renton being a standout. He manages to put some credibility and human qualities to a type of person we would often think of as inhuman. Mix the great acting with the perfectly timed and energetic directing of Danny Boyle (including one fantastic withdrawal sequence) and add in one great soundtrack including Iggy (not Ziggy) Pop and Blur and you've got yourself a beautiful and brilliant movie.