Go

Trainspotting

Year: 1996
Studio: Channel Four Films
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Andrew Mcdonald
Writer: John Hodge
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd

The Star Wars films came to epitomise the aesthetic of the 1980s, iconic films from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Beverly Hills Cop all owing a debt with their free-wheeling masculinity, sense of adventure, special effects, action and bravura.

The mood of the 2000s came to be dominated by the progeny of The Blair Witch Project – the rise of fanboys and girls who wielded a camcorder, had a great idea and used experience carved out in adland or music videos, finding themselves helming multimillion dollar blockbusters a few short years later.

But the 1990s were characterised by the rise of the stylistically audacious second generation movie brat, the spiritual brothers of the small group like Lucas, Scorsese and de Palma who stormed the studios in the 1970s and remade Hollywood in their own image.

And no film serves as a call to arms of that movement more than the sizzling arrival on the world stage of Ewan Macgregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner and the creative team of Boyle, Hodge and Macdonald (although their earlier effort Shallow Grave was no less enjoyable).

A love letter to the highs and lows of heroin addiction adapted from Irvine Welsh's novel, the story itself is deceptively simple. Its mission statement is outlined through just a few lines of dialogue, such as the subversive but neat summation that people endure the agony, poverty and destruction of heroin because it makes them feel good ('we're not fucking stupid').

The story of Mark Renton and his three 'friends' isn't one of desperation, struggle and sacrifice like in most movies. It's the complete opposite – it's about opting out of life and all that goes with it, hitting rock bottom and deciding it's nice enough to stay there. It's also an extremely funny tale, and in hindsight four more distinctive actors could hardly have been found for the now-legendary characters and dialogue.

It would have been five parts (for trivia hounds) but Kevin McKidd as Tommy was already onto his next project and couldn't be there for the photo shoot that led to the now-famous marketing, leading to the perception that he wasn't a lead character.

It's a day in the life (albeit covering a few weeks) about Renton and his friends and how heroin touches, destroys and affects their lives in various ways. What actually constitutes the plot is difficult to remember without just having watched the movie, it's more a series of comic and sometimes tragic vignettes as Renton lives in the grip of skag, tries to get out of it, realises the futility of resisting and descends into it whole-heartedly, makes a final desperate break and then watches as his past comes back to haunt him when he's on the way to normal life.

Unlike some of the commentary of the time saying the film glamourised drugs, Trainspotting does assert that drugs are bad and that they'll ruin your life, just that while they're doing so it can be a very bizarre, soporific and often very funny time.

And Boyle's direction – straight out of every other media from comic books to music videos – set a new benchmark for cool in 1990s moviemaking where cynical cleverness supplanted special effects as the aesthetic du jour. It was the arrival of a major new talent that's so far done little to disappoint.

It's also the Life of Brian of the 1990s – endlessly quotable and watchable, the story almost secondary next to such brilliant characterisations and razor sharp dialogue.

© 2011-2018 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au