Next Friday, “T2 Trainspotting” comes out in a wide release. The film is a sequel to “Trainspotting,” the most popular British film of 1996 and a cult hit. In anticipation of the long awaited sequel, now is a perfect time to check out the excellent filmmaking and performances that made the original a modern classic.
“Trainspotting” centers on a heroin addict named Mark Renton. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his colorful, morally questionable friends. The film follows Renton’s adventures as well as his numerous efforts to stop taking drugs.
The cast is filled with brilliant young actors who would, in the next few decades, become very successful. Not only was "Trainspotting" Ewan McGregor’s breakout film, but it helped launch the career of Jonny Lee Miller, the star of “Elementary” on CBS.
“Trainspotting” was Director Danny Boyle’s second film. It is a fantastic showcase for his great ability to convey a lot of meaning with small details. In one scene, Boyle communicates how drugs can ruin a life through a single tracking shot.
The best thing about this movie is its filmmaking technique. The frenetic first sequence of Renton running away from some cops is very well edited and exciting. It sets a wild pace that can draw in any viewer.
The filmmaking always serves to make you inhabit the characters’ world more fully. The editing in particular is excellent at making you share its characters’ drug-addled mental states. Even a simple action such as sharing a milkshake becomes disorienting through the use of fast cuts.
The tone of “Trainspotting” is very precise. It straddles comedy and tragedy, sometimes within the space of minutes. Realistic scenes of filthy, grim settings can be followed by surreal, trippy sequences.
This tone is well executed partly because of the movie’s versatile cast. McGregor is a fantastic lead as Renton. He expertly balances his character’s charisma with his sick desperation for drugs. His calm yet rapid fire delivery of his narration makes Renton one of my favorite narrators in cinema history.
The supporting cast is excellent. Miller is great as the James Bond-obsessed Sick Boy. Robert Carlyle is simultaneously entertaining and frightening as Begbie. Kelly Macdonald is strong and charming as Diane.
The soundtrack in this movie is iconic, still especially popular in the United Kingdom. It is a fantastic mix of addictive 1970s and 1990s music of varying styles. I’m not an Iggy Pop fan, but thanks to this movie, “Lust for Life” is now one of my favorite songs.
I'm cautiously excited for the sequel to this movie. So far, “T2 Trainspotting” has had a good box office showing in a limited run. The trailers seemed promising, and I'm excited to see how these familiar characters have grown.
“Trainspotting” remains an enduring masterpiece. It still feels transgressive and well-directed after 21 years. You won’t regret choosing to watch it.