Board this ‘Train’

Prior to 1996, it was as if Hollywood had a rule that if a movie involved drug use it had to be depicted in one of two ways. Films like “Easy Rider” and “Man with the Golden Arm” depicted their drug use seriously while other films like the “Cheech and Chong” films tried to make the topic humorous and light-hearted. In director Danny Boyle’s second feature film “Trainspotting,” the vastly underrated director meshes the two styles of depiction and creates an unforgettable film.

Ewan McGregor stars as heroin addict Renton, narrator of a large portion of the film from his point of view. This creates a great connection between him and the viewer in a situation in which becoming emotionally invested isn’t optimal. John Hodges’ screenplay provides its characters with enough appeal to create the sense the people on screen aren’t horrible human beings, but more or less people whose lives aren’t on track with the norm.

Although some may view the character appeal as condoning of heroin use, other techniques the film uses would prove otherwise. Interestingly, Boyle allows the viewers to see the film’s events from two different perspectives, one of which he creates and the other the viewer creates. With the physical separation from the characters, viewers can separate from the perspective of Renton and realize the film’s events are clearly cruel and disgusting. Simultaneously, the connection with Renton allows the viewers to understand the state of mind he is in when he does certain things. This doesn’t create sympathy necessarily, but at the same time gives a reason not to hate him for what he does.

This utilization by Boyle provides something most films regarding drugs do not, and that’s make the viewer feel as though they are on the drug the plot revolves around. At certain points it’s easy to forget so much of what is being shown is the result of heroin, much like the characters forget their lives are run by the drug. The film offers a valuable perspective and insight into a world that most people have no clear understanding of. By choosing to show certain things in certain ways, the film provides a light bulb moment in the realization of why heroin addicts start to use the drug and why they generally can’t get off it.

McGregor gives the best performance of his career and the film is easily one of Boyle’s best. Both are at the top of their game in this film, and it ends up being essential to creating an entertaining and captivating hour and a half movie that for the most part has no plot. The movie just provides insight into the lives of heroin addicts, but with a little more flare than the typical drug movie with a message. But the point “Trainspotting” makes comes across just as loud and clear as any serious movie involving drugs. This is a testament to the ability of Boyle and the overall script for being able to look past a bias and give the viewer the truth on a not-so-popular topic.

– Scott Hansen