Welcome to MUBI.
Your online cinema. Anytime, anywhere.

Reviews of Trainspotting

Displaying all 5 Review

back to Trainspotting

Picture of Daniel A. DiCenso

Daniel A. DiCenso


Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is indicative of two major trends in the 90s. The first is the surge of interest in independent film and the second is the “cool Britannia” movement in which a second wave of British invasion hit the US, bringing Oasis, Blur, and even the Spice Girls. The powerhouse opening, in fact, set to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” with Ewan McGregor running down the streets of Edinburgh is reminiscent of the opening of the Beatles’s Help!. Except that Mark (McGregor), is explaining why he won’t choose life over heroin.
Boyle is as interested in the gritty lives of the dispossessed as he was in Slumdog Millionaire, but Trainspotting is less fantastical and far darker. This is the poor part of Edinburgh that few outsiders see. It is about a group of young Scottish men entrenched in the cycle of drugs. They do heroin everywhere, including in front of a baby who could be the daughter of any of the young men. Leading this gag of dope-heads is Sick Boy (an amazing Jonny Lee Miller), a chillingly disconnected punk obsessed with James Bond.
Mark, the most salvageable of the gang, decides to get off the drug, going as far as locking himself up, but his aspiration doesn’t last. Boyle never shies away from graphics and in a clever mixture of surrealism and hallucination he depicts Mark literally where his life is, down the toilet.
By laughing at Mark and his mates we are acknowledging how pathetic their lives are and that is the ultimate anti-drug statement. As disgusting as the toilet scene is, for instance, it works better than any of the countless public service videos targeting high schoolers. Especially true in the scene in which Spud (Ewen Bremner) botches a job interview, we are embarrassed for these guys; a rare quality in cautionary tales.
It is ironic that Sick Boy’s choice of conversation is “having it, and then losing it with age”. He doesn’t have “it” even in his youth as his life consists of shooting at people with a pellet gun. There is some debate about what the title means. Likely, it is an allegory for the wasted life of addicts. They passively sit and watch trains go by, debating about the merits of being Scottish and being outside of a dominant, ruling society.
Trainspotting is never preachy about its warning, but honest about the effects of drug addiction. By understanding the drug culture and the reasons why people become addicts, Boyle is better equipped to condemn them. With influence from Tarantino, Boyle makes his case through several vignettes. One chronicles the empty love life of the gang with a mix-up involving a soccer tape and a sex video. Others are sadder, as when Mark steals from his own working-class parents to fund his addiction and then progresses to stealing TVs from nursing homes, a habit that Irvine Welsh, the author of the book on which the film is based, witnessed himself while observing addicts.
“No matter how much you rob,” Mark narrates, “you have to do it again”. Tragically, this is the same way he treats drugs.
The pivotal point in the film is the death of the baby, resulting from neglect and exposure to drugs. Now Trainspotting stops being funny (even if darkly so) and begins a serious examination of the consequences of the actions of Mark and his friends. They can’t even respond appropriately, and ease their grief with more heroin. From here on, Trainspotting is just sad; Mark drags down his relationship with other people, including his own friends.
Trainspotting is a movie in which we actually take notice of the editing. There is one particularly brilliant sequence in which Mark, recovering in his bedroom, hallucinates about the fate of all the people he hurt. Among them is the baby he indirectly killed and his friend Tommy who has contacted HIV (his guilt coming back to haunt him). It’s an effective rendering of the electric filmmaking so in vogue in the 90s.
When Mark cleans up and gets a job in London, the entire look and feel of the film changes. So ugly was his world that we see the new locale as our own escape from the darkness of heroin addiction. He no longer has to take refuge in his drug friends put his past has ways of catching up to him. But when the short-wired Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and Sick Boy meet up with him in London, distinctions are drawn. Tommy’s funeral serves as a marker as to who is a good guy and who is not among the gang.
Sadly, the Academy was slow to appreciate independent cinema and overlooked Ewan McGregor, whose screen image has since evolved from a young addict to a polished gentleman, in a superb performance. Even within Trainspotting his character undergoes a complex transformation. Mark gradually manages to get out of addiction, making him one of the most enigmatic figures in British cinema. He was able to change while his friends couldn’t. So effective is he played and his story told by Danny Boyle that there is something truly liberating about seeing him break free from their influence.

Picture of Carim James

Carim James


The film Trainspotting is about sex, drugs and raving. The film encapulates a change of era to become a modern noteworthy and acceptable medium to show life in the United Kingdom for the decade of the 90’s.

It’s certainly an insight for me, I’ve heard stories of how parties were, and if anything like ‘Trainspotting’ is to go by, the quality of life of the characters is certainly debatable, but should be seen on film for a laugh and a chance to admire the hidden part’s of life which are deep in ones concious and not always exposed in life. The film mentions many drugs, sexual connitations and allows for fights to progress with the good and the bad and seemingly ugly part of life, but it is worth seeing for the soundtrack and the pure thought of advancement for characters careers such as Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle, certainly a must see for enthusiasts.

Picture of MR. Universe

MR. Univers​e


Me and these damned movies from the 90’s

Due to my love of danny boyle’s first film SHALLOW GRAVE I couldn’t wait for his follow up and back in the nineties I would read any movie magazines that came out. Keep in mind this was before the internet. So I knew a lot about this project before it came out. I was even tempted to read the novel just to find out exactly what is was all about. I went to see the film opening night after hearing about it at all the film festivals and the reviews being praise worthy then I saw the trailer that convinced me it was a must see. I saw it to a half full crowd and it won me over. If it had been a girl it would have been love at first sight it had me in it’s hands and never released it’s grip on me until the credits were over. It was almost a religious experience in the church of the cinema. It was the first time I truly understood the meaning of surrealism in film meant and was shown it by example.

After the film I went to see it 4 more times bringing as many people to it as I could. I went out and bought the import soundtrack at virgin records. I couldn’t wait for the American CD to come out I listened to the soundtrack endlessly so it could bring back memoirs and visions on the different scenes. I also went out soon after and bought the Script and would use the monologues from the film in the acting class I was taking at the time.

Though the film seems at first to be about taboo’s it reveals the humanity underneath the characters some are decent and just in the grips of addiction. Others are just rotten to the core that you know even if they weren’t addicts you have a feeling they would be revolting people. Everything about the film works together perfectly, The cinematography, The soundtrack, The performances with many unforgettable scenes.

The character go through the grungy and grimy atmosphere but like a clockwork orange it seems to take place in a normal regular world but a bit off. A Clockwork orange is set in the near future. Trainspotting takes place in current times but the surrealistic atmosphere is due to most of the characters being on drugs so while they seem to be straight they succumb to fantasies or abstract elements and visions. That can be horrific but also for us in the audience heighten the atmosphere as to what is exactly going on taking us on a journey into the thoughts of the characters and witnessing there actions at the same time.

I even developed a crush on Kelly MacDonald who I predicted rightly for a change would be one to look out for in the future of cinema. (others like Rosario Dawson would also work out but for each one I predicted correctly as a future superstar there is a Eddie Furlong or Brad Renfro who I was wrong about)

Now while the film had it’s detractors who claimed that the film glamorized heroin addiction to a small degree it did make it seem exciting or let you experience part of the trip but for all of that it also showed you the horrors of the addiction too. I think that the likeability of the characters got in the way. The detractors probably felt that if you liked the characters you were saying addition is ok. Which is not true considering there are a lot of people in the world we like thy just happen to do things we don’ like or look down upon it doesn’t mean we should hate them.

The film is carried on the shoulders of out protagonist and narrator Ewan McGregor who uses his natural talent and charisma to make us sympathetic and like his character. He is part of a ensemble who all make themselves memorable in some way but due to the time we have spent with him we find Ewan’s character the heart of the film.

The film is truly the work of someone is a master filmmaker. This was only his second film and he shows such a mastery of his own craft that you can tell he would be a force to be reckoned with. Which by now with his subsequent films, Such as SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, MILLIONS, SUNSHINE. has been proven to be true. even the films that are considered disappointments still have something noteworthy to show. Even his bad films are better then half the things out there.

The visuals so lush and expressive you could put the film on mute and play it while music plays or at a party and still be able to follow it.

The film is never boring, it keeps you on your toes.


Picture of Miguel Angel Perez Rodriguez

Miguel Angel Perez Rodrigu​ez


is fantastic, incredible, a of the best films
what i saw in a lot years
the live pura y dura
buscarse la live
joder a los colegas …………………….
en la vida lo unico k tiens es tu cuerpo
cuidalo,kierelo, conecelo,
cuando llegues a pensar k dominas esos aspecto
sabes lo k kiers
de la vida
yo ya lo sabia desde toda la vida
para mi k es un idea apriori kon la k kada persona nace
ers como ers
y k la vida ni los años te cambien
beeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnhappy my friend,
be wather, the wather can heat, can flow, be wather my friend.
de la genialidad a la lokura solo hay un paso
los rikos no son lokos son excentricos

Picture of Alanedit



Trainspotting is the best film of the 90’s. Lemme make the case:

No film captured the zeitgeist exuberance that was in the air at the time. It’s a movie that felt like it could only be made at that time. It’s the equivalent of what hipsters are trying to be today, without the pretentious bullshit and fakeness associated with that scene.

Secondly, Danny Boyle and cast brought something unique to that material, a priceless screenplay adaptation by John Hodge. It’s the best screenplay I’ve ever read. It’s so full of classic moment and quoteable dialogue that you want to go back and forth and enjoy it again. For such a bleak story the proceedings have a lot of energy. Boyle’s best film to date, incredibly inventive direction that complements the characters.

It ain’t Pulp Fiction. I’ll take Trainspotting any day.