Review: Trainspotting (1996)


Drugs are good, drugs are bad, maybe, maybe not.

Screenplay By: John Hodge
Directed By: Danny Boyle

Trainspotting is one long trip. It is a disoriented, fuzzy viewing experience. Trainspotting attempts in its visual and narrative style to emulate the drug that is its subject material. It does so in high fashion, letting us see both sides of the drug issue and not taking a stance on the matter. Trainspotting doesn’t preach that drugs are bad, nor does it glorify the use of drugs. Trainspotting shows drug users using drugs and experiencing the euphoria that they get from those drugs. Trainspotting also visualizes the pain and sickness that comes from their drug use. The anti-drug contingent wants us to believe that drugs offer no positives, while the pro-drug group wants us to believe that drugs have no side effects whatsoever. Trainspotting lets you know that both sides are right and that it is up to you to decide if the euphoric moments are worth the moments of loss and pain that will also be a part of the package. That is a clear distinction that people need to make when watching this movie, because the choice is for you the viewer, not the director or the movie.

There are humorous moments throughout Trainspotting and there are also plenty of scary moments. One character in particular stands out for his ability to be both funny and fear inducing, Robert Carlyle as Begbie. He is the boastful funny guy at the pub that just wants to shoot the shit with his mates, and that is when you think you understand him. Then at a moment’s notice he turns into a reckless individual, maiming and inflicting violence without nary a thought. Mr. Carlyle does all of this subtly, Begbie could be broad and big, but Mr. Carlyle injects him with reality. There is pain behind his actions, Begbie is scary because he is so crazy, so unhinged. He’s the scariest character in the movie because he even out dirties the junkies that we naturally think of as being the worst of the worst.

Trainspotting’s problems lay in its breezy nature. It moves at a fast clip, and that serves the story at times, but hurts it at others. Danny Boyle uses fantastic imagery to get his point across, but the movie isn’t long enough or full enough to be fleshed out like it needs to be. Trainspotting is still a fine movie, but both its story and its characters could have used a bit more length and a bit more time devoted to them.

Trainspotting is an early entry in the career of Boyle, a director that has since gone on to make a series of tremendous films. Trainspotting is an artistic achievement that takes a look at the world of drugs and drug users that isn’t the normal one. Trainspotting is a film that is often talked about and there is a reason for that. Take a gander, you won’t be disappointed.



Bill Thompson

One response to “Review: Trainspotting (1996)

  1. Pingback: This Week In Cinema: March 31-April 06, 2013 | Bill's Movie Emporium

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