Trainspotting (1996) starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Peter Mullan directed by Danny Boyle Movie Review

Trainspotting (1996)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Ewan McGregor as Renton in Trainspotting (1996)

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When "Trainspotting" came out there was a bit of an outcry as people complained that this movie glorified drugs, I will admit the first time I watched I thought the same. It is actually easy to understand why I and others thought that because "Trainspotting" is a perverse movie, whilst it is showing you the most disgusting aspects of drug addiction it makes you laugh. It makes it a movie very easy to misconstrue because you can walk away from it thinking here is a movie which makes fun of drug addiction, even glorifying it without realising it is also highlighting how controlling it is the need for relief, the camaraderie with other addicts and how hard it is to escape the cycle when you have fallen into it.

I'm not going to give you a proper synopsis for "Trainspotting" for the simple reason there is too much going on, too many characters to mention to do it justice with out telling you to much. But to put it simply "Trainspotting" is about drug addicts and in particular Renton played by Ewan McGregor and his personal battles with kicking the habit and staying off of drugs when his only friends are those who will lead him back.

Ewen Bremner as Spud in Trainspotting (1996)

Now "Trainspotting" is a movie of two acts with the first act being the most interesting as we are thrown head first in to the world of addiction. What we get via Renton who narrates the movie is a look at the life of a drug addict, the squalor, the stealing to pay for a habit, the side effects and the difficulty of going straight. And this first act is where "Trainspotting" is at its most perverse because we witness some of the worst aspects of drug abuse including a vomit inducing filthy toilet diving scene yet these are delivered in such a way they are perversely comical. It is why despite actually showing how disgusting being a heroin addict is and how hard trying to kick the habit is that you can misconstrue "Trainspotting" as glorifying drug abuse because of that perverse humour.

The second act is where "Trainspotting" loses it a bit as we have more of a crime story tagged on the end which I am sure is there to highlight how hard it is to move on with old friends dragging you back. But this second act is much weaker than the first act and lacks the punchiness and perverseness to make it work.

Now there are some who proclaim "Trainspotting" as the greatest British movie ever made, I disagree although now acknowledge its perverse cleverness. What I will say is what Danny Boyle did on a relatively small budget is spectacular from just alternative camera shots of people as they experience highs or hallucinations to those big vomit shots including the scene featuring Spud's bed sheet incident. But for me that second act just loses it and fails to be the stylish movie which made up the first hour.

As for the acting well here is a movie which brought a lot of people to the public attention; Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller may all have been acting for a few years but as Renton, Spud, Begbie and Sick Boy they grabbed people's attention. And it is understandable to see why because they are all extreme characters played with 100% commitment from the actors which is why "Trainspotting" is a full on movie. Plus of course "Trainspotting" gave us Kelly Macdonald as she made her debut playing a 14 year old school girl despite being 19 at the time.

What this all boils down to is that "Trainspotting" is a movie which is perverse because some how it finds the humour of drug addiction whilst also showing how disgusting the habit is. It is why I openly admit to misconstruing it the first time I watched and ended up being impressed when I watched it again. Oh and for all you pub quiz fans yes Dale Winton appears in "Trainspotting" in one of Renton's hallucinations and yes that just adds to the movies comical weirdness.