I’ve seen people quote this film from time to time, and I never understood the attraction because I saw it once and forgot about it. After a bit of intrigue, I finally got my hands on a copy of the US version of this 2 disc set (though the UK version, with the orange cover and silhoulette image of Ewan McGregor on the cover looks much cooler) and gave it a spin, lo and behold, I discovered a pretty good movie.
It’s been talked about a lot for awhile I guess, but to sum up, McGregor plays Benton, a heroin addict in Scotland, who spends his days getting high and hanging around with his mates. Spud (Ewen Bremner, Black Hawk Down) wears Nancy Reagan-like glasses from time to time, and seems to be the closest one Renton relates to; Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller, Hackers) is the one that tries to make himself superior to the group, when he’s not off spouting weird theories about movies that Sean Connery has starred in; Tommy (Kevin McKidd, Topsy Turvy) is against his buddies using but is curious about it, and then there’s Bigbie (Robert Carlyle, The Full Monty), a beer-drinking Scot with an offensive mustache and a penchant for getting into brawls.
Based on the book by Irvine Welsh and directed by a then relatively unknown Danny Boyle (who went on to make 28 Days Later), I’ve heard a few different critiques of the film, it’s pro-drug, it’s anti-drug, but I think it’s may be more of a movie about friends than drugs. Now granted, drugs are present throughout a lot of the film, but I think it’s more the first half of the movie than anything else, to help give you an idea, albeit a superficial one, of the efforts to try and get out of addiction. After Renton movies to London, both Sick Boy and Bigbie come by and stay in his small apartment, and to paraphrase something Renton said when they came by, “they’re mates.” There’s quite a few clever edits and camera tricks that Boyle employs, and this movie was much funnier than I remember as well, it may be one of the better dark comedies that I’ve seen in recent years. And I think this may be better than the Guy Ritchie films (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) that came out shortly after this did, and may even resemble, in terms of style, a bit of Fincher’s Fight Club. It’s very good work that has been remembered for good reason.
The earlier single disc version of Trainspotting was non-anamorphic; here Miramax provides a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that does the film justice. Considering the gritty nature of the film, there looks like some artifacts are present, but overall, the various shots all look, in a word, “gleet!”
There are Dolby Digital English and French 5.1 tracks, as well as a DTS track, which I naturally went for. The music plays an important part in the soundtrack, as the DTS format provides a good sound area with frequent use of the surround effects. Oh, and English subtitles are included for those who can’t keep up with the Scottish dialect.
The first disc includes a commentary by McGregor, Boyle, Hodge and MacDonald. What appears to be a rehashing from an old Criterion laserdisc for the film is included here, recorded in 1996, and the parties talk about the film, what drew them to it, and other random aspects of the production. 9 deleted scenes with optional commentary are here too, and they total just over 10 minutes in length.
Disc 2 is where the rest of the bonus material sits, starting off with a section entitled “Retrospective”. This section comprises interviews both then and now, of the production of the film with members of the crew, and the “now” section comprises interview footage of Boyle, Hodge and MacDonald in February 2003 (presumably for the DVD’s UK release), recalling the production as well. The “then and now” treatment is done for two sections of the disc, the audio and visual styles of the film, and these interviews last about 20 minutes.
A longer interview section is next, with more footage from the aforementioned three, and on set footage from Welsh. Each share their thoughts about where they were in their careers before the production, how they adapted the book, the casting and look of the film, and the impact the film had both in the UK and internationally. In all, the 4 segments total about 37 minutes in length, and are fairly repetitive. Next is a feature hyped on the disc as a “multi-angle” behind the scenes special which isn’t really, as the angles are of Boyle recounting the production of a scene showing a heroin needle going into a fake arm, and not of a particular scene really, as the only “angle” is from an on-set production videocamera.
Another piece entitled Calton Athletic Boys is a 30 second retelling by McGregor of some of the research in the film. Next is the “Cannes” section, which starts by interviewing some of those who saw the film, including Martin Landau and Noel Gallagher of Oasis. This is pretty brief, lasting about 5 minutes, followed by a Cannes snapshot, a 2 minute piece on the film’s screening at Cannes and subsequent party, along with more actor opinions. The teaser and theatrical trailers are next, followed by an on-set Making of featurette that last about 10 minutes, and features interviews with the actors on set also. 9 biographies follow (6 of the cast and 3 of the crew), along with a still gallery of close to 100 pictures set to a song from the film.
A fairly high price tag with little help in the price break or weighty extras are somewhat disappointing; but the film is a very stirring portrait of life (and friends) in Scotland, full of fresh original touches by Boyle. Longtime fans of the film should snap this up, and its anamorphic transfer and DTS track are worth the upgrade from its shoddy single disc release.
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