Danny Boyle directs Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle in this Scottish classic where a group of working class friends while away their twenties with heroin, violence, drinking, theft, Seventies music and bad sex.
In 1996 we were, for just a moment, all smackheads from Leith. Me and a mate snuck into the wrong screen at the multiplex to see this underage and it was a defining experience. The soundtrack of Lou Reed and New Order paragons was the soundtrack of that summer. The Irvine Welsh book, much of it written in colloquial Scots, was a codex to struggle through and decipher – much like A Clockwork Orange, cracking the language and revealing the illicit thrills within made the book feel like a private treasure you had excavated. Yet John Hodges adaptation is so agile that it keeps the spine of the book’s non-linear short story structure while moving with a chewing purpose. Scenes smash into each other like dominos. You keep up with the rush and ride the downers. An immersive experience where every shot now feels like an iconic tableau. Boyle makes this fantasy period Edinburgh look bright yet destitute. You can feel the crust on the carpets, the sweat lashing oafay Sick Boy in every sequence. Some are terrifying but it never betrays the simple fact that people wouldn’t get addicted to heroin if it didn’t feel quite so good. Every generation needs their On the Road or Easy Rider. A rebellion against the life more ordinary at least in media form. Trainspotting (the novel and the film) was mine. Rather than hit the road it takes the tracks. But the philosophy of it sums up a lot of my feelings towards being working class, friends (we all know a Begbie), Britain and nationalism. It has stood the test of time shockingly well. A flawless slice of cinema.
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