November 2015 Blindspot: Trainspotting

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The Blindspot Series is a series of twelve posts spread throughout the year designed to offer bloggers a chance to catch up classic films we somehow may have missed. Started by The Matinee, here is my list of Blindspot films for 2015. Up next for November is Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting.

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Easily the best thing about Trainspotting is Danny Boyle’s trademark energetic direction. Though I still haven’t seen many of his films, I’m coming to associate him with a kinetic style that is matched by no other filmmaker. Though Ewan McGregor in the lead role and the regional dialogue all add to the film, the energy is mainly what we’re left with.

Trainspotting tells the wandering and aimless story of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), a heroin addict. He and his friends all seem to live in the same apartment, pulling schemes and ripping people off, all in the name of the next score. Throughout the film, they fall in and out of love with girls, heroine, and each other, but after all is said and done everything remains status quo. Renton manages to quit heroine, move to London, and become a real estate agent, only to be trailed by the same toxic friends and the same toxic drug. At the end, he promises to start anew, but we don’t buy it for a second.

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Though Trainspotting is filled with colorful characters, it’s interesting that they all seem rather homogeneous in their devotion to heroine. There’s Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) who has a weird obsession with Sean Connery. There’s Spud (Ewan Bremmer) who seems more innocent than the others but no less far gone. Standing out is Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who actually is not on heroine but is crazy enough that he might as well be. Like our hero, they’re all terrible people who do terrible things, but the snappy dialogue and the energetic direction make them fun to watch.

The film this most reminds me of is A Clockwork Orange, surprisingly enough. Those this film has none of the moral pretensions of that one, the visual style is somewhat similar and the very specific dialogue style is reminiscent of that earlier film as well. The color scheme is similar, and this low-fi approach that delights in how gross the film looks at times is present as well. There is also a significant use of wide angle lenses at times that recalls Clockwork. Certain story beats reminded me of the Kubrick film as well, for example when Renton gets sent home and his parents have to rehabilitate him.

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What sets it apart, besides its rejection of any sort of moral stance about what is going on (which is fine by me), is these surrealistic touches that Boyle throws in at some points. I definitely saw this in Steve Jobs recently, and this type of storytelling is even more pronounced here. There’s a classic scene where Renton dives into “The Worst Toilet in Scotland” in search of lost drugs, and is engulfed by it entirely only to end up in the ocean. Not only is it beautifully realized special effects work, but it is delightful to watch and adds an extra something to the film. There is a recurring motif of characters falling back on the floor after they take a hit, and this is taken to its logical conclusion with the hit that finally sends Renton to the hospital. He falls back on the floor, and he and the carpet keeps going, trapping him in a sort of grave. He stays in that “grave” until he gets to the hospital. It’s very effective imagery and really makes the film into something special.

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“Who needs reasons when you have heroine?” Renton asks in the opening moments of the film. The film definitely doesn’t try to supply any, but rather just concentrates on its characters. It’s definitely not a preachy drug addiction movie, which is refreshing. While it might not be the most socially conscious approach, that’s fine by me because we’ve seen that before. It doesn’t make you think drug addiction is a good or inconsequential thing, but rather gets you into the mindset of a group of characters who saw the attraction of it. There’s a value in that.

Trainspotting is one of my favorite Blindspots so far. It might have something to do with the fact that it is in English (or rather Scottish ha ha) or that it’s from the ’90s, but still, I’m really getting to appreciate Danny Boyle. I’m going to have to get to more of his films. I had a really fun time with this one and can’t wait to see more.

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“Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”

Long story short: 3.5/4 stars

For Further Reading:

Roger Ebert review
The New York Times review
The Guardian review

The next Blindspot will be on Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, coming December 28th.

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2 responses to “November 2015 Blindspot: Trainspotting

  1. Great review. I too enjoy Boyle’s energetic style here. His use of surreal images is my favorite part. Now whenever I see a gross toilet, I remember the scene where Renton dives into one.

    • Thanks! I agree! It was funny because when I saw it I immediately flashbacked to gross toilets I’d seen in the past when that shot came up on the screen. I really enjoyed Trainspotting, definitely will watch it again at some point.

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