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Renton, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and influence of friends.
For more about Trainspotting and the Trainspotting Blu-ray release, see the Trainspotting Blu-ray Review
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Kelly MacDonald
Director: Danny Boyle
» See full cast & crew
Trainspotting Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 9, 2009
British distributors Film Four enter the Blu-ray market with Danny Boyle's fantastic "Trainspotting" (1996). The film is yet to be released on Blu-ray in North America. The disc herein reviewed is Region-B "locked".
Based on the popular novel by Irvine Welsh, Danny Boyle's Trainspotting is a film that is irresistibly funny and at the same time incredibly sad. It follows closely the deeds of a group of junkies living in Edinburgh, Scotland as they slowly lose control over their lives.
There are five of them. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor, The Island), an on-again, off-again addict, who has repeatedly attempted to get off drugs but has failed. Spud (Ewen Bremner, Julien Donkey-Boy), a good-hearted loser, who always gets shafted. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller, Plunkett & Macleane), a young lad not yet fully hooked on heroin but fascinated with Sean Connery. Tommy (Kevin McKidd, AfterLife), a deceivingly intelligent looking lad, who believes that an Iggy Pop show is better than sex. Begbie (Robert Carlyle, Riff-Raff), a disturbingly violent man with a serious drinking problem.
The five junkies are at a different point in their addiction cycles, which is the reason why Trainspotting is structured as a collage of individual sequences. One of them is about Mark's attempt to get clean. He goes to an abandoned apartment and nails the door so that he could resist the temptation of getting out and finding himself another fix.
There is another sequence where Mark visits Tommy, who has locked himself into an abandoned apartment with a slightly different idea in mind. Mark attempts to cheer up his friend but realizes that Tommy has already given up on life. Before he leaves, Mark gives him his change.
In another sequence, we see Mark moving to London and attempting to start a new life. However, Begbie, who is wanted in connection to an armed robbery, and Sick Boy, who has become a pusher and pimp, appear and drag him back into a world of excess and crime.
Trainspotting ends on an upbeat note. Everyone is given a second chance but only one of the main characters takes advantage of it. Of course, considering what takes place during the first half of the film, one could successfully argue that the message of Trainspotting is far more nihilistic than it is optimistic.
Trainspotting earned international acclaim after it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival (outside of competition) in May of 1996. The film had premiered to rave reviews in the United Kingdom a few months earlier. Big international distributors quickly bought the rights to the film and the rest is history. Nowadays, Trainspottting is considered by many as one of the quintessential cult films of the 90s.
One of the key reasons why the film managed to entice audiences around the globe is its impeccable blending of drama and comedy. Cinematographer Brian Tufano captured the deceiving coolness (and ugliness) of heroin addiction in such an impressive fashion that many felt Trainspotting might have effectively promoted what it aimed to dismiss.
The notable jabs at the value system promoted by Margaret Thatcher's conservative government during the 80s (where the story of the film is set) also resonated strongly with many who saw Trainspotting. Mark's initial rejection of these values – manifested through his memorable monologue in the very beginning of the film – and consequently enthusiastic embracement are amongst the key scenes from the film.
Trainspotting is complimented by a fantastic selection of club hits such as "Born Slippy" by Underworld, "Final Hit" by Leftfield, "For What You Dream Of" by Bedrock, "Temptation" by New Order, etc.
Trainspotting Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (slightly cropped from its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1), encoded with MPEG-AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Danny Boyle's Trainspotting arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Film Four.
The basics for this Blu-ray transfer appear to be mostly intact, but there are a few issues with it that should have been addressed. For example, contrast is adequate, with a lot of the daylight scenes looking very strong. Clarity is also pleasing, though, occasionally the transfer gets a bit soft. Additionally, the color-scheme is quite strong but, again, not very consistent. This being said, there is a good amount of edge-enhancement on this transfer, which those of you with large screens will likely notice. Macroblocking, however, is not an issue of concern. Furthermore, the transfer used by Film Four is quite healthy – there are no disturbing scratches, debris, dirt, or stains. To sum it all up, the Blu-ray release is most definitely an upgrade over existing DVD releases of Danny Boyle's film, but I think that it could have looked even better. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked release. Therefore, unless you have a native Region-B or Region-Free player you won't be able to playback it).
Trainspotting Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 5.1. I opted for the English DTS 5.1 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track for the purpose of this review.
Yes, it is a bit disappointing that the British distributors have not provided a lossless track of some sort on this disc. This being said, the English DTS 5.1 track is actually quite strong. First, the dialog is crisp, clear and exceptionally easy to follow (still, might be a good idea to turn on the optional English subtitles if you notice that the Scottish accents are a bit too thick). Second, there is a good dose of activity in the rear channels. Third, the bass is also potent. Additionally, the excellent soundtrack for example sounds particularly well. This being said, I did not detect any pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review. I did not detect any balance issues either.
Those of you who own Trainspotting on DVD should know what to expect from the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track- it treats the film rather well. It is also of acceptable quality and with absolutely no issues to report in this review. I must say, however, that I would have preferred to have a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track or a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track instead. For the record, Film Four have provided optional English HOH subtitles for the main feature.
Trainspotting Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Memories of Trainspotting – an extremely informative featurette where director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, screenplay writer John Hodge, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Kelly Macdonald and Robert Carlyle recall how the film was adapted from Irvine Welsh's book, the type of challenges the cast and crew faced, how the film was received, etc. Subtitled in English. (AVC, 45 min).
Deleted Scenes – a selection of deleted scenes previously available on different SDVD releases of the film. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 11 min).
Look Of The Film Then – an interview with production designer Kave Quinn shot during the filming of Trainspotting on June 15, 1995 in Wills Cigarette Factory in Glasgow. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 4 min).
Look Of The Film Now – a short interview with director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald and screenwriter John Hodge where they talk about the film, its look and its message. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 3 min).
Sound Of The Film Then – an interview with director Danny Boyle conducted in Shepperton Studios on November 10, 1995 during the audio dubbing of the film. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 8 min).
Sound Of The Film Now – an interview with producer Andrew Macdonald and director Danny Boyle where the two talk about the importance of tunes used in the film. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 5 min).
The Beginning – a short featurette where cast and crew members talk about the characters and message of the film. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 10 min).
Archive Interview with Irvine Welsh – filmed on set on June 27, 1995 in the Wills Cigarette Factory by Kevin Macdonald while Irvine was being shot for his cameo appearance. Film on Hi-8, this material is of variable quality. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 5 min).
Behind The Needle –a short segment showing how some of the graphic scenes in the film were shot. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 6 min).
Danny Boyle On Trainspotting – the director very quickly explains how the film became a reality. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 3 min).
Ewan McGregor on Trainspotting – a short excerpt from Ewan McGregor's Career Retrospective broadcast on FilmFour in 2002. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 8 min).
Cannes Snapshot – footage from the notorious party at the Cannes Film Festival where the film was screened in 1996. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 2 min).
Cannes Vox Pops – a collage of interviews with Martin Landau, Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Damon Albarn, and Ewan McGregor taken after the screening of Trainspotting. Subtitled in English. (MPEG-2, 5 min).
Trainspotting Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is fantastic to have yet another British distributor, with a terrific catalog of films, release on Blu-ray. Trainspotting, the first Blu-ray courtesy of Film Four to reach my desk, is certainly an upgrade over existing DVD versions of the film. It looks and sounds good, but I am convinced that it could have looked and sounded even better. Nonetheless, if you reside in Region-B territories, take a look at this disc.
Trainspotting: Other Editions
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