No 316 - Trainspotting
Director - Danny Boyle
Ah the 90's and Cool Britannia.
We had Blur. We had Oasis (though I prefer Pulp - who have a song in this film - over either of them). We had Lock Stock and we had this.
'Hollywood Come In - Your time is up' rang the critic quote on the poster. The poster which even today adorns roughly a bazillion bedrooms of students and young adults.
This is one cool film. From the first seconds of the film with the 'dum dum dum' of Lust for Life playing under Ewan McGregor's Renton's iconic 'choose life' speech this film is showing itself as incredibly cool. Yet it walks a very intelligent (and very dangerous) tightrope. You see this film is incredibly cool and it shows taking heroin to be a very lovely and somewhat morish thing. But... in NO way does it glamorise heroin use.
The characters live in horrible squalid squats. There is a lot of poo throughout this film. There are a lot of robberies and a lot of violence.
For every scene in which you see people lying in bliss there are scenes (far longer, more important scenes) of utter horror. Allison's baby dies whilst she is on drugs - a horrible image which haunts the viewer throughout the film, almost as much as it haunts Renton throughout. However, the real warning comes from Tommy. A character that begins the film as one of the few normal people in their social group (he doesn't take drugs. He isn't a psychotic bastard) however after being dumped by his girlfriend he gets involved and everything spirals out of control.
It is quite sad that when we return to Tommy several months after his first hit he is living in a vandalised, dirty, unfurnished flat just lying on a sweat and piss stained mattress. When we return for the 3rd time. He is dead.
Spud ends up in jail, and later seen doped up on the side of a road (literally in the gutter) but Tommy is the warning - Heroin is not only not glamorous, it'll get ya killed.
In fact - for me the most chilling scene is the scene in which Renton overdoses. The mix of imagery as the panicked dealer drags Renton's twitching passed out body into a taxi with the soft tones of Perfect Day by Lou Reed. It is really a moving sequence - worth the price of the ticket alone. And seeing Renton suffer in that moment and the horrific 'cold turkey' sequence would put anyone off heroin forever.
But really this isn't a film about Heroin. It is about Renton trying to get clean, but mostly it is about Renton and his friends. It just turns out that most of his friends are Heroin users. However, the most dangerous of his 'friends' is clean.
Begbie. Fucking Begbie. Robert Carlysle at his most psychotic and terrifying. He has played a lot of psychopaths in the past, but the real chilling thing is how grounded in realism Begbie is. He is just a nutter that enjoys getting into fights. He is that massive cliche... a big violent jock. He is the one that Renton can't escape - he is the one that drags him back to heroin, despite being clean and very anti-smack.
The rest of the cast pale in comparison with Begbie though. Spud is an idiot, a gormless, harmless, smack addict idiot and Sick Boy is a wise alec twat. The other characters are all parents or girlfriends. Bit players in the grand scheme of things. Although I was very amused to see Shirley Henderson playing Spud's girlfriend. Oooh Moaning Myrtle talking about sex and swearing. Love it.
In fact, besides Begbie there is only one character that made an impact. Diane. I think she is hilarious and very cool (obviously as does Renton) and the fact that she is a school girl is hilarious (she is the least convincing teenager though - Kelly MacDonald was 20 at the time and I presume she is supposed to be 14 or 15 in this film.) - but despite scaring Renton to death with worry about going to jail, she turns out to be his most important ally. She writes to him and she cares for him and she's glad when he's off the junk. I like to think they eventually get together. When she has grown up.
The whole film is a slow wake up call. Not about drugs. Renton knows he is addicted. He knows it is bad. He says he should get off it at the very start of the film (that's what makes each failure so crushing). The film is a wake up call that he needs to get away from his idiot friends who bring him down.
So when he finally runs away with the profits of the big drug deal, you cheer.
You want Renton to have 16k to build a better life.
You want Renton to get better and to choose life.
You also know that jail can't hold Begbie forever.... So you want Renton to get far far away.