When it comes to movies and books that center around drugs, they tend to be very realistic in their portrayals. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it; as some people will say that such media tends to glorify drug use. Now I am honestly indifferent on the drug use in the books or movies, as I focus more on the story itself and know that drug use can make the story more poignant. When it comes to today’s movie, none of those factors came into play. I was interested in seeing it simply because of the monologue tagline that Ewan McGregor’s character said during the trailer and the use of Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life”. Not the best reasons I know but I was still a teenager when this came out and shallowness is the hallmark of that age. Now let’s see how this movie stands up as I watch today’s movie, Trainspotting.
The plot: Mark “Rent Boy” Renton and his friend Daniel “Spud” Murphy are running from two men and as a car pulls out in front of them, Renton rolls over the hood while Spud keeps running, with one of the men still chasing him, while Renton stops and laughs at the driver of the car. Some time earlier, Renton and Spud are getting high on heroin with their friends Sick Boy, Allison (who brought her infant daughter Dawn with her) and their dealer “Mother Superior”. Renton decides to go clean and gets all the supplies that he thinks he will need while going through withdrawl, then calls a friend to get one last hit but the man gives him some methadone suppositories, saying they will be perfect for him as they will provide a more gradual release to help him get clean. As he is heading back to his flat, Renton gets a case of diarrhea and stops at a pub, which has the worst toilet in Scotland. Braving the filth encrusted stall, Renton goes to use the toilet but as he finishes, he accidentally drops the suppositories into the bowl and has to crawl into it to fish them out, then heads back home to start getting clean. Sick Boy decides to go clean at the same time, mostly just to annoy Renton by showing how easy it is for him to do so as the two hang out at a park shooting people with an air rifle. Renton also tries to help out Spud in getting a job but Spud completely blows the interview. Later, Renton, Spud, and Sick Boy go out drinking with their friends Begbie, a violent, psychotic friend man who loved to start fights, Tommy, the only drug free friend in the group, as well as Lizzy (Tommy’s girlfriend) and Gail (a girl Spud is dating). After Begbie causes a fight at the pub, the group head out to the Volcano Nightclub and Renton, who has been feeling horny from his withdrawal, sees a young woman named Diane and approaches her after she leaves. After talking for a few minutes, Diane invites Renton back to her flat and the two have sex but afterwards, she kicks him out, saying he can’t sleep there, so he ends up falling asleep on the couch in the hall. Meanwhile, Tommy and Lizzy go back to Tommy’s place to have sex but when Lizzy wants to watch a video of themselves while they have sex, they discover that the tape is actually a tape of soccer matches and Tommy thinks he might have returned the wrong tape by mistake, not knowing that Renton had actually switched tapes so he could watch it. Elsewhere, Spud follows Gail back to her place but ends up passing out on her bed. When he wakes up in the morning, he realized he had defecated in the bed and tries to leave with the dirty sheets but as Gail’s mom tries to grab them and wash them and as he struggles with her, the sheet opens up and feces go flying all over Gail and her family. When Renton wakes up, he learns that Diane is underage and is upset that she tricked him and when he tries to break things off with her, she blackmails him into continuing to see her or else she will go to the police. Renton, Sick Boy, and Spud decide to go back to doing heroin and Tommy starts joining them, as Lizzy broke up with him over the missing tape. As they continue to do drugs, Allison starts screaming one day and they discover that Dawn has died sometime during the night while they were all high and Sick Boy is upset about it while Allison asks Renton for a hit to numb her pain. Renton and the others result to stealing to support their habits, which brings us to the events at the beginning of the movie. Renton and Spud are taken to court for shoplifting and Spud is sentenced to 6 months in prison while Renton has checked into a rehab facility for treatment to avoid prison. As Renton is with his family and friends celebrating not going to prison, Spud’s mother shows up and Renton apologizes that spud went to prison instead of him but she just walks away. Renton goes to see Mother Superior to get a hit and ends up over dosing so Mother Superior calls a cab and has him dropped off at the emergency room. After being treated for his overdose, Renton is picked up by his parents, who take him back to their and lock him in his old room, weening him off heroin cold turkey. During his withdrawal period, Renton starts hallucinating about Spud, Tommy, and Baby Dawn, who crawls along his ceiling. As he gets clean, his parents have him tested for HIV and he despite his years of sharing needles, Renton is clean. Tommy, whose life has fallen apart after Lizzy left him, has contracted HIV and when Renton goes to pay him a visit, he asks Renton for some money so he can buy a hit. Diane pays Renton a visit and as they are talking, she tells him the world is changing and he isn’t getting any younger. Renton takes her words to heart and moves to London to start a new life, getting a job as a property letting agent. He stays in contact with Diane, who tells him that Sick Boy has become a pimp (and tried to recruit her), she ran into Spud, and nobody had seen Tommy for weeks. As he reads the part in the letter about Begbie being wanted for armed robbery, he hears someone ringing his doorbell and realizes who it is. Begbie, who is on the run from the police stays at Renton’s place and has him place a bet on a horse race, which he wins and they go out to celebrate. Some time later, Sick Boy shows up, looking to make a big score and after he sells Renton’s TV, Renton places his passport in a locker and moves them into an unrented loft so they won’t get him into trouble, hoping his boss will catch them and have them arrested for vagrancy. Before that happens, they head back to their hometown to attend Tommy’s funeral and afterwards, as they are having some beers in their old hangout, Sick Boy tells them of a large shipment of heroin that they can buy for £4,000 and sell in London for £16,000. Sick Boy convinces Renton to front the money and unfortunately, he is the one that has to test the product to make sure it is good. As they head back to London, Begbie gets more and more paranoid, as if he is busted for this he will be looking at a huge prison sentence when it is added to the armed robbery charge. After making the deal, the four go out to celebrate and as Sick Boy and Begbie leave the table, Renton talks with Spud about taking the money and leaving but Spud doesn’t want to, as he is too scared of Begbie. When a man bumps into Begbie and makes him spill some of the beers he is carrying, Begbie attacks the man and brutally beats him, accidentally slicing Spud with his knife when Spud tries to intervene. Renton sees this as the last straw and as they are all sleeping, he quietly gets dressed and steals the bag from Begbie, who was holding it as he slept. Spud sees him as he leaves and Renton waits to see if he will go with him or shout out but Spud shakes his head no so Renton walks out the door. He heads to the locker and grabs his passport, leaving £4,000 in there for Spud, as he felt sorry for him. When Begbie wakes up and discovers the money is missing, he begins trashing the hotel room and the cops end up being called and arresting him. Spud and Sick Boy leave, with Spud going to the locker and getting the money, while Renton takes the rest of the money and heads off to start a new life.
Trainspotting met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A brutal, often times funny, other times terrifying portrayal of drug addiction in Edinburgh. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth viewing as a realistic and entertaining reminder of the horrors of drug use.” The character Sick Boy is shown to be a huge James Bond fan in the film, which is ironic because Jonny Lee Miller, who played Sick Boy, is the grandson of Bernard Lee, who played “M” in the series until 1979. The movie was a box office hit, earning £48 million ($72 million) off of a £1.5 million budget, picking up several awards and an Academy Award nom and just over 20 years later, a sequel was released that picked up the story of the characters 20 years after the original movie.
This is a somewhat dark but very good movie. The acting was great, with Ewan McGregor (Renton), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy), Ewen Bremner (Spud), and Robert Carlyle (Begbie) all doing great jobs in their roles. The story was very realistic and did a good job showcasing the ups and downs of people using heroin, and the withdrawals as well. The scenes were pretty graphic at times, with baby Dawn’s death, and the hallucination of her crawling on the ceiling being especially disturbing, even today. A lot of the imagery and music use during some of the scenes also helped with the realistic feel to this movie, even the scenes that you knew were hallucinations or very liberal use of artistic imagery (such as Renton actually crawling into the toilet to get the suppositories). I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and some might find it downright depressing, but I do think this is one of those movies that everyone should watch at least once.
Rating: 4 out of 5