Review of Trainspotting

A review of Trainspotting, Danny Boyle's seminal piece on drug use in Scotland in the mid nineties. A roller coaster ride of emotion, hedonism and heroin, this film is a stunning piece of cinema that must be seen to be believed.

As soon as Ewan McGregor's foot slapped down on the cobbled streets of Glasgow, I knew I was in for a non-stop thrill ride; and that is exactly what Trainspotting is, never stopping to let you understand its madness until its final moments. Encompassing the heroin-fuelled life of serial abuser Renton, Danny Boyle's wondrous and macabre adventure into the depths of human life is an enduring period piece of emotion and anger. 

McGregor's character guides us through the story at a dizzying pace, with Boyle using creative cinematography to show how far in Renton and his friends have immersed themselves within Glasgow's drug culture. Beginning on the floor, and slowly rising above them, the camera paints a picture of rehabilitation for some and death for others, proving the vicious circle of hedonism the group find themselves in. Boyle doesn't spare the audience from the gruesome reality of heroin use, showing us gory insert shots and close ups of the drug in use, and the results of neglect, with elements of surrealism used to help tell the story. The film can be described as a dark comedy, with elements of crime, and it follows a traditional Hollywood narrative. Alongside it's dark subject matter and inventive use of cinematography, the film has a killer soundtrack, featuring the likes of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and underworld, with each artist representing a different part of the film, and representative of their own addiction.

Among Renton's group of friends, we find many different people, Spud, an even worse Junkie than Renton, Sick Boy, Renton's best friend, Begbie, the psycho hard man the whole group is scared of, and Tommy, the one they all aspire to be, as he is drug free. Throughout the film, we see the fluctuating state of Renton's addiction, and with it, the different ways in which his friends change; some for the worse, and some for the better.

Made in the middle of the AIDS pandemic, the film makes no apologies about its subject matter, showing viewers how hard drugs can ruin lives, and are not the glamorous substances they are made out to be by Hollywood thrillers. In this way, Boyle stands out against the masses, and makes his own point. 

Use of Mise en Scene within the film shows us how deep the characters have entered into the seedy underworld. Set dressing in the Mother Superior scenes show a dilapidated and downtrodden scene, reflecting the lives of those within it. This stylised use of Mise en scene also helps to find an audience for this film. The film is geared more towards young people, as when the film was released, they would have been the ones worried about AIDS, and wearing the fashions seen within the film (another use of mise en scene). 

A seminal piece by a seminal director, Trainspotting is a must watch for anybody. 

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Matthew Squire

Matthew Squire

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