CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • Production
  • 18
  • Comedy, Crime
  • 1996
  • 110 mins

Trainspotting

Trainspotting

Synopsis

Danny Boyle's hyper-kinetic heroin culture classic. Renton, Spud, Begbie and the rest score and scam their way through 1980s Edinburgh and London

About

The story and the soundtrack you know about. The hype and controversy too. Trainspotting, with its exhilarating approach to desperation, addiction and death, was one of the most vital British movies of the 1990s. Unlike previous films dealing with heroin culture - Christiane F, The Basketball Diaries - Danny Boyle's film has a comic strain so potent it deserves a health warning all its own. The plot itself is profoundly bleak but with kinetic style and relentless energy Boyle finds sympathy for Irvine Welsh's hopeless, drug-hungry scamsters.

Initial reaction, it's worth remembering, wasn't favourable and the film was criticised for glamorising smack. It doesn't. Ewan McGregor's Renton, amiable but morally ambivalent, succeeds - sort of - on the back of his sorry, selfish charm. His mates fare far, far worse.

There's the corruption of Tommy (Kevin McKidd), the death of Allison's (Susan Vidler) baby and Renton's grim response. ("I'm cooking up.") Robert Carlyle visibly vibrates as the violent Begbie and Johnny Lee Miller's Sean Connery-obsessed Sick Boy introduces a degree of knowing comedy. Boyle's slightly longer cut of the film on the 'Definitive Edition' DVD also provides a chance to follow the fate of Mother Superior/Swanney (Peter Mullan), whose intravenous habit costs him significantly more than in the original theatrical release. No one gets off lightly, and though early scenes celebrate the uneasy camaraderie of outlaw drug buddies, by the end everything and everyone is screwed.

Pivotal to Trainspotting's success is its use of music to echo and emphasise these characters' trajectories. Iggy Pop and Lou Reed knew all about the cyclical monotony of a life reduced to crave, hit and crave. At the film's heart however is the synthetic pulse of Underworld's 'Born Slippy' and the final scene blends image and tune to devastating effect.

Trainspotting set the style for an era, and seemed to herald a new age of British cinema. It's interesting now to compare Trainspotting's energy, style and structure with Boyle's Oscar-nabbing Slumdog Millionaire - there are distinct similarities.

All involved here give class-A performances, Boyle's direction is brilliantly ingenious and whole stretches of the script remain burned upon the brain. Trainspotting provides ample evidence that even the grimmest subject matter can make a great film. It's just a question of how you harness that raw power.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Peter Mullan, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Ewan McGregor, Susan Vidler, Kelly Macdonald
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Screen Writer: John Hodge
  • Writer (Book): Irvine Welsh
  • Producer: Andrew Macdonald
  • Photographer: Brian Tufano

In a nutshell

Arguably - and there are many who'll fight you for it - the best British film of the 1990s. Funny, disturbing, tragic and deeply addictive.

by Jon Fortgang

Clips

Video

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Just Wright

    Just Wright

    Queen Latifah plays a physical therapist falling for Common's recovering basketball pro in this romantic comedy

    On Film4: 1 Aug 5:10PM

  • Film4 Grand Central

    Grand Central

    Gary (Tahar Rahim) falls into both a job and a love-triangle at a nuclear power plant, as he develops a powerful attraction to the fiancee (Léa Seydoux) of his new boss

  • Film4 Mistaken For Strangers

    Mistaken For Strangers on Film4

    Indie rock band The National are followed on their tour by the frontman's brother, an aspiring filmmaker

  • Film4 Betty Blue

    Betty Blue on Film4

    Béatrice Dalle stars as the beautiful and unpredictable Betty Blue in Jean-Jacques Beineix's romantic drama on Film4