Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trainspotting (1996) Review

Last summer, I was intent on getting myself some moviegoer credentials, as I had been content thus far with science fiction television shows and apart from some major franchises(Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord Of The Rings), I hadn't seen much at all. Now, I already mentioned how I became invested with horror movies, but another film that caught my eye was 1996's Trainspotting. 

In 1996 Edinburgh, a drug-addled slacker named Mark Renton struggles to find meaning in his life amidst his dysfunctional, backstabbing friends. After nearly dying from an overdose, he flees to London, but can he escape from the stench of heroin even there...?

This film collected a phenomenal group of actors. 

Ewan McGregor is now of course known as a natural leading man, but back then, this was one of his earliest movies and instead of confidence, he exudes corrupted youthfulness: with his skinhead haircut, clothes a few numbers smaller than they should be, earring, pale skin and near-skeletal figure, he's the nightmare of every parent. Mark Renton is a bully, introvert and substance abuser all at the same time.
And yet at the heart of things, he's only human. What he wants is what everyone wants: freedom, health and comfort.

Jonny Lee Miller plays Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, who idolises Sean Connery and himself. Sick Boy's complete detachment from life is ultimately his Achilles heel, leading to the death of his daughter out of neglect and his own failure to really amount to anything. Miller plays the part as that of a youngster way over his head, but also has a kind of irredeemable acidity to him. In some ways, he represents the worst of the group: someone who could easily function in a normal society(unlike Begbie), but who chooses not to with barely a hint of regret.

Speaking of Begbie, Robert Carlyle is a magnetic powerhouse in this film, portraying a character that at first glance seems to be devoid of subtlety. The foulmouthed, uncontrollable Francis Begbie is easily the highlight of the movie. He is terrifying in some ways, but so over-the-top rabid that you can't help, but feel safe from the more macabre elements of the movie whenever he's present.

Kevin McKidd's Tommy MacKenzie is probably the saddest story of all. He's the most down-to-earth of the group, one of those special people whom everybody loves hanging out with, and what does he get? A break-up, AIDS and death from toxoplasmosis, all because Renton gave him drugs when he was at his weakest.

And finally there's Ewen Bremner's lovable Spud, a weak-willed goofball with a heart of gold. He doesn't really get that much to do in the movie beyond showing a bit of variety amongst the otherwise depressed or violent members of the gang, giving some hope in life. But it's a wonderful and memorable performance nonetheless.

The female cast are downplayed, but there is Kelly Macdonald's snarky Diane Coulston, who steals Renton's heart... despite being only 16 years old. Awkward. But funny. Shame it never worked out, because they had a ton of chemistry.

The film is renowned for its surrealism, and that's where the special effects come in hand. Whether it's an Exorcist baby, the worst toilet in Scotland or the bizarrely contorted rooms, it looks splendid on the minuscule budget.

The cinematography is gritty, but also hyperkinetic, perfectly capturing the urban lowlife. It does a great job of following Renton's fragmented musings. The sets are painted in worn browns, yellows and greys(coming down from the flashy neon lights in the 80s), the music is gorgeously contemporary and extremely memorable and the editing is perhaps the best part of all(you can see in the deleted scenes how sluggish this film could've been in the wrong hands).

If you had to pick one film to represent each decade, Trainspotting would be the 90s.

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