Danny Boyle has repeatedly proven himself as one of the most innovative and inspired filmmakers working today. The Oscar-winning director from England specializes in crafting films that depict gritty realism that is often a little tough to watch. But what separates his films from most others is Boyle's ability to win the hearts and minds of his audiences through excellent screenwriting and perfect casting. His best film, "Slumdog Millionaire," is the ultimate testament to Boyle's skills as a filmmaker, and it has eight Academy Awards to prove it. But before he rose to such prestigiousness, Boyle announced his presence as an important new director in 1996 with a little film called "Trainspotting." While it may not be worth celebrating like some of Boyle's later films, "Trainspotting" is definitely one to remember long after an initial viewing.
Based on the book of the same name by Irvine Welsh, "Trainspotting" depicts a group of heroin addicts as they live their young lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Told from the perspective of Mark "Rent Boy" Renton (Ewan McGregor), the film dives nose-first into the world of drug addiction and poverty, showcasing the joys and pains of living such morally depraved lives. Renton repeatedly tries to rid himself of his addiction and live a halfway-decent lifestyle, but the bond shared between him and his mates pressures him into taking just a few more "hits."
From the get-go, "Trainspotting" is absolutely crazed and unapologetic. Within the first ten minutes, Renton already plunges way too deep into the nasty world he lives in, as shown by an off-putting yet oddly funny scene involving "the worst toilet in Scotland." Of course, the insanity does not stop there. In between these shocking moments covered in grime, Boyle is sure to maintain the film's vigorous pulse, taking the characters outside their dealer's dilapidated flat to a few bars where there is promise of good times and late-night hook-ups. Renton and his friends also visit places in the Scottish countryside to reflect on their lives for a while. These changes in scenery give Boyle the freedom to experiment with his rich color palette and different camera lenses, creating some entrancing and pretty visceral images.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be given to Boyle is that his talents with the camera make the film's most disgusting and most disturbing scenes utterly compelling. However, he knows exactly where to draw the line in terms of violence, the drug usage, and decorating scenes with the filthiest stuff imaginable. Taking cues from Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick, Boyle knows not to sugar-coat his portrayal of drug addiction in any way. Other commendable aspects of the film include an exceptional breakthrough performance by Ewan McGregor, who later went on to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, and will appear as Lumière in Disney's live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast." Kelly Macdonald, now famous for voicing Merida in Disney-Pixar's "Brave," also turns in a fine performance for her first film, even though she has limited screen time.
It is worth noting that two similar films soon followed in the wake of "Trainspotting." Terry Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream," are stylistically and tonally different from Boyle's film, but both seem to take thematic inspiration from their predecessor. A brutal, harrowing, and often darkly funny film, "Trainspotting" offers a unique depiction of irresponsible youth, intoxicated living, and what it is like to be bound by addiction. If you are of the right frame of mind, it is most certainly worth checking out on Netflix in your spare time.