Director - Danny Boyle
Cast - Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Kelly MacDonald, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller
Country of Origin - U.K. (Scotland)
Discs - 2
MSRP - $19.95
Distributor - Lionsgate
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (5/5)
When I met the woman who is now my wife, I was more of a straight ahead splatter movie geek. She lent me a DVD of Stranger than Paradise, and that changed my perspective on film, my first thought was "this is so booorrrrrinnnnnnngggg." But it stayed in my brain for weeks after.
We weren't dating at the time, we were co-workers, and friends, and we both liked movies. I would lend her armloads of horror films Suspiria, The Beyond, Dead Alive, Evil Dead ,etc. She would return the favor with titles that I hadn't seen considering my limited cinematic scope of splatter films, and the occasional mob flick. One of these piles consisted of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killer's, Jean Pierre Jeunet's City of Lost Children, and the film that would become my favorite film of all time, and the subject of this Blu-ray review Danny Boyle's Trainspotting.
I will be honest it's more difficult for me to put to words my feelings for films that are my absolute favorites. The films that I have seen dozens of times, and have scenes and lines completely memorized. I will admit it that I do not relate to the characters of the film, but there is an intensity to the film, and a sense of fun even amongst the drama and tragedy that keeps me coming back for repeated viewings year after year.
Trainspotting is a story about addiction, and one of the hardest addictions there is, heroin. In light of the fact Danny Boyle and company have taken Irvine Welsh's amazing source material, and turned in a movie that does not skirt away from the horrors of said addiction, but unlike a film like Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream which tends to focus more on the darkness and drama of the addictions effect on the characters.
Trainspotting pulls off an excellent balancing act showing us the horrors of addiction, the effects it has on the user, and those around them, but also rewards the viewer with lighter moments. The film works as both an effective drama, and an effective comedy, and walks what line almost perfectly . This is a film that while centered around addiction is more about it's characters, lifelong friends who know each other inside and out, and how they interact with each other in this world of back stabbing, drug dealing, crime, and addiction.
Of course, this wouldn't be possible if it were not for the absolutely stellar cast, and Trainspotting has one of the finest cast that could have been assembled for this particular. With a young Ewan McGregor anchoring the cast as Mark Renton, Jonny Lee Miller as Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, Ewan Bremner as Daniel "Spud" Murphy, Kevin McKidd as Tommy, and Robert Carlyle as Begbie. All the cast are uniformly excellent, and bring these characters to full life. If you've read the books, you understand that these characters are people that have known each other since they were children, they went to school together, they are a tightly knit group of friends, and not just a few people who met over shared needles in a dealers apartment, and these actors really bring that connection home.
The screenplay John Hodge is similarly spectacular. Anyone who has read the book will understand that it is not a linear narrative, it is more or less a collection of short stories that involve these characters (actually a few more, some characters are lost, and combined for the film). The screenplay somehow manages to take the non-linear collection of stories in the book, and turns it into the semi-linear narrative of the film without feeling like a betrayal of the source material, and in doing so is actually one of the finest literary adaptations ever put to film.
The direction from Danny Boyle feels both astonishingly fresh and groundbreaking, yet grounded in filmmaking tradition. The film never leaves you with a boring moment, yet there is plenty of room for the characters to expand, and the story to be told. Also, the look of the film down to the sets, colors, and camera angles and movements are damn near perfect for what Boyle is trying to accomplish.
The story for those who don't know is about a group of Scottish friends most of whom are hardcore heroin addicts. The films narrative is grounded, and narrated, by Ewan McGregor's Mark Renton. The early narrative of the film involves Renton trying to get off of heroin with great difficulty. The latter portion of the film shows Renton living in London addiction-free, but being dragged back into the lifestyle by his friends, and the promise of the drug deal that will make them rich.
Holy Crap Trainspotting looks nice! Lionsgate has done some fantastic restoration work unleashing Trainspotting onto Blu in a gorgeous 1:85:1 1080p transfer that immediately makes all prior editions totally obsolete. The level of new detail present is simply stunning, most noticeably in close ups, the colors used to great effect in the film truly pop from the screen in this edition, everything is really pushed to 11 here folks! That being said Trainspotting was never the greatest looking film to begin with, and there are limitations to the source material, some of the darker moments are a bit murky, for example, but overall this is the finest this film has looked probably since it's theatrical presentation.
The audio is presented in an absolutely bombastic DTS-HD 5.1 English audio track. This track absolutely will explode from your speakers. The dialogue, music, and effects are mixed well, unless intentionally obscured (the club scene, and subtitles are provided). I could not detect any audio imperfections on the track such as pops, hissing, or distortion.
Nothing new to report, everything that was on the 2004 collectors edition is here on this Blu-ray. If you don't have that then I'll happily list off the contents of these editions, it's all pretty good, interesting, and informative, and really the reason to be buying this if you're a long time fan is the PQ upgrade, if you're new to the film than this is a nice elaborate slate of extras that will fill you in nicely, and honestly, not much more really can be said at this point.
The set kicks off with a commentary featuring Danny Boyle, producer Andrew MacDonald, and writer John Hodge. This is followed by a series of deleted scenes that can be played with commentary by Boyle. We then have a series of Trainspotting "Retrospective" documentaries. On the look of the film and the sound of the film then and now (now being 2003 when the featurettes were produced).
In the same Retrospective section we have interviews with Trainspotting and Porno (The literary Trainspotting sequel) author Irvine Welsh. The interview was conducted from the set of the film as he prepared to do his cameo as Mikey Forrester. There is also an interview with Danny Boyle, and finally one with producer Andrew MacDonald. This is followed up by a series of short featurettes entitled Behind the Needle which detail the making of one of the shooting up scenes in the film.
The extras are wrapped up with a typical 10 minute of making of piece. It's the sort of fluff they make with pretty much every movie, it shows a few scenes, a few scenes being shot, and some interviews patting the films own back. We then have some interviews from the Cannes film festival with cast members of the film, and attendees of the premier including Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Damon Albarn of Blur and the Gorillaz (and so much more), Martin Landau, Ewan McGregor, and more. Finally, we have a photo gallery, and 2 trailers in standard definition.
Trainspotting is my all-time favorite movie. While the extras are familiar, and inappropriate labeled (I guess then and a few years later doesn't have the ring they were looking for). The visual upgrade alone is reason enough to buy this. It's an amazing movie, with a fantastic script, tight direction, and one of the best cast of any film in the 90's. Highly Recommended.