Trainspotting (1996)

trainspotting poster 1996 movie review
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 9/10

Fun young actors, stylish, great soundtrack

Yeah that baby looks fake, thick accents might be hard for some viewers

Movie Info

Movie Name: Trainspotting

Studio: Channel 4 Films/Figment Films/The Noel Gay Motion Picture Company

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): February 23, 1996 (UK)/July 19, 1996 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

trainspotting renton choose life ewan mcgregor

Choose life?

Choose life.  Choose a career.  Choose a job.  Choose a family.  These are all ideas floating around the head of twenty something heroin addict Rent (Ewan McGregor) as he slums around Edinburgh, Scotland. Flanked by his “friends” and fellow addicts, Rent has some deciding to do. Can he escape the hell he’s created for himself or is he destine to be a junkie for life?

Directed by Danny Boyle, Trainspotting is a crime drama.  The film is an adaptation of the 1993 Irving Welsh novel, and the movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.  The film became a smash hit which quickly developed a cult following.

Trainspotting was a big movie when I was just going to college and the poster adorned many walls along with other films with similar snappy scripts like Pulp Fiction, Swingers, and The Usual Suspects.  As big as it was in the United States, it was even bigger when I went to London in 1997.  The movie really shot director Danny Boyle to stardom after having directed Shallow Grave (1994) which garnered him critical acclaim.  Trainspotting maintains and earns its place as a cult movie.

trainspotting worst toilet renton ewan mcgregor

Mom said if you left the toilet seat up that you would fall in…

The movie is different than the book which is more constructed as a bunch of vignettes told by different characters.  Like the book, the movie uses a thick Scottish dialect which can be challenging for some viewers (and might require subtitles).  The story is an odd coming of age story which has some resemblance to movies like A Clockwork Orange or Goodfellas (Begbie would love to think of himself as head of a proper gang), but there still is a dark comedic thread that runs through the crime themed movie.

What really works about Trainspotting is the strong cast.  Ewan McGregor (who also starred in Shallow Grave) shot to stardom as Rent, but he had a great supporting cast as well.  Tommy (Kevin McKidd) as the clean cut soccer fan that gets the fatal addiction to heroin due to Rent’s actions.  Spud (Ewan Bremner) as the innocent, likable character who always seems to take the fall.  Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) as the slick Sean Connery imitating guy who less into the addiction and more into the quest for money.  The topper of the group of course is Begbie (Robert Carlyle) as the rough “likes to fight” guy who does no wrong in his own eyes (and he’s a real scene stealer). These together made a strong cast that was hip and current.

trainspotting begbie robert carlyle

Begbie is three seconds away from kicking your ass

The film employed a slick look which helped to also connect it to films like Pulp Fiction.  The editing and talking was rapid and intense.  It mimics the rush of the drugs and the highs and low.  In some ways, Trainspotting holds up a little better than Pulp Fiction because it had to build its fan base a bit more…plus, Pulp Fiction was way overplayed…yeah, the baby on the ceiling still looks fake, but it is a fevered dream.

Trainspotting is a great movie with a pumping soundtrack. It is another movie that if you didn’t like it the first time, you should maybe give it a second chance (I was kind of tepid the first viewing but hooked after a second viewing). The cast, for the most part, went on to bigger thing and many became break-out actors. It is fun to go back and revisit them when they were young and new to the scene…Choose life!  Trainspotting was followed by T2 Trainspotting in 2017.

Related Links:

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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