49. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Trainspotting

June 28, 2018

Director: Danny Boyle
Screenplay: John Hodge
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald
Runtime: 93 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1996

 

★★★★☆

 

In so many ways, Trainspotting is a film about the transformation of Britain's economic landscape at the cusp of the millennium. A dreary portrait of dreams lost, hopes hollowed out and filled with the positions and distractions that western civilisation offers as the cure. For Renton (McGregor) and co., this just happened to be drugs.

 

For the harrowing daylight nightmare of its subject matter, Trainspotting is one of the most enjoyable and exciting films ever made thanks to its ability to swim with its characters in the ocean that they're fighting against. Everything that went right in this crew's previous picture, the spectacular Shallow Grave, is present here but ranked up to ecstatic new levels of ecstasy.

 

Danny Boyle's energetic, pumped-up direction, Masahiro Hirakubo's editing and John Hodge's terrific screenplay adapt Irvine Welsh's definitive generational cornerstone in a way no other combination could have dreamed. Its encompassment of the mindset of a lost generation is so complete in its bizarre intricacies it has to be felt more than seen to be believed. The throbbing beauty of its melding of 90s disconnected Britpop, 70s/80s Rock and the blazing dance music of the rave era bring a tastefully eclectic are to the film's soundscape.

 

The performances of its one if a kind cast are utterly astonishing, all sharing a perfect balance of chemistry and hateful ambivalence at the circumstances of their own conditions. They embody their literal counterparts so perfectly as to eclipse them almost entirely. It's set designs and colour pallet are gorgeously grotty and muted, the tiniest details accounted for by filling in the gaps of this subjectively strategised, whirlwind universe. Brian Tufano's cinematography plants us in picturesque frames of earthy nastiness, homeliness and the bitterly unique Scottish landscape.

 

It's Danny Boyle's hilarious, horrifying, savagely human, twisted and enduring masterwork.

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