1990 Silicon Dreams Games and Movie Reviews: Trainspotting: Light at The End of The Needle

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Trainspotting: Light at The End of The Needle

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If there is a movie most people remember the 90s by it's Trainspotting. It's dark, wretched and at the same time it's got that sort of childish innocent fun and satisfaction that comes with a life of zero responsibilities, that's so typical of the life of a drug addict. It's a movie themed by the usage of drugs, but at the same time, it's based on an Irvine Welsh novel, and if you're familiar with his other books, they may be about drugs, but that's only the bottom line, and there's a lot more going on bellow the surface. 

The movie starts out in the schemes of Edinburgh, where a few friends juggle between a life in the pubs with the drinking and football fans, and a darker less socially acceptable sort of entertainment. In the opening scene of the movie we see our characters running away from the police after some kind of petty robbery, dodging traffic as Renton's monologue that's been made so popular ever since runs in the background (if you've ever seen that orange and white Trainspotting poster, or the cover of the book, you're probably familiar with it). It's a drone on, hippy, disenfranchised view on society in the time, where mercantilism has taken over human values, and hearing it come from the mouth of a druggie, only makes the issue sound more genuinely agitated. 

The characters in the movie are the typical stereotypes of the era - the football player and sporty type who's never taken any drugs, has a stable relationship and is generally well balanced, except for the company he keeps. The ageing 'lover-boy' who's keeping up the appearance of being in the game, while the lack of back-up for his high self-esteem gradually starts to show. The meth-mommy, the sixteen year old who spends her time picking up guys at the local club, while not on her homework. Lastly, Renton, the generally never-do-good who's at the same time the only one, aware enough of his situation to do something about it, or at least to realize the great discord of the life he and his friends are living. Renton though wouldn't want you to think that his pals were stupid, as far as participating in the fun of shooting up heroin goes, he wants to set things straight that it's not as stupid as it looks but you have to try it to appreciate it. Take your best orgasm, multiply it by a thousand and you're not even close. 

While the characters are typically involved in the local past-times such as football, hiking and shooting pellets at people in the park, there's something more sinister going on in the background and that's reality catching up. Renton wants to get clean, but Renton's got enough of an addiction already to be able to claw his way through a barred up door, for a hit (his idea of a self-imposed rehab is locking himself up with enough canned food and some TV in a room for a week). He wants to get a decent job, but his attempts are thwarted by the notion that money has to come from tricking the system, rather than from hard-work. 

In the end the gang tries to score a drug deal, to pay for their new life, naturally it doesn't go quite as planned, but it's the 90s and it's a British movie and those kind love an open ending. Where Requiem for a Dream was truly a heart-wrenching tale of how addiction can ruin the lives of the people you love, least of all your own, Trainspotting has a more balanced message, that at the best if you're smart enough to realize the stupidity of your own situation, you may end up coming on top of it. And if you're smart enough you may end up coming out on top of the drugs. You've got to pay attention really really well, to be able to spot the train coming. 

Irvine Welsh has written several other books about life in the schemes - "Glue" "Porno" "The Acid House" (which was also made into a movie, that's somewhat even more disturbing, although less popular) and more recently "Crime". His books share the style of dealing with taboo topics in a genuine sort of way that leaves you empathising with the characters more than you could ever imagine feeling for a junkie or a drug dealer.  


  1. Really need to watch this sometime.

  2. man what a film aint watched trainspotting in ageeees!

  3. Trainspotting is the first novel by Scottish writer Irvine Welsh

  4. Nice review. Definitely interested now.

  5. I'm watching this film tonight.

  6. Great movie; I should watch this one again, too.

  7. Great film, no watched it for years though . . .
    'Armed robbery . . . With a replica . . . I mean, how the fuck can it be armed robbery with a fucking replica?
    Gotta love Begbie hehehe :)


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