Trainspotting is a 1996 Scottish film directed by Danny Boyle based on the novel Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. The movie is about a group of heroin addicts in late 1980s Edinburgh and their passage through life. It stars Ewan McGregor as Mark Renton, Ewen Bremner as Spud, Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, Kevin McKidd as Tommy, Robert Carlyle as Begbie and Kelly Macdonald as Dianne. Author Irvine Welsh also has a brief appearance as hapless drug dealer Mikey Forrester.
The Academy Award-nominated screenplay, by John Hodge, was adapted from Welsh's novel. It does not contain any references to the non-drug-related hobby of train spotting. The title is a reference to an episode in the original book (not included in the film) where Begbie and Renton meet "an auld drunkard", who turns out to be Begbie's estranged father, in the disused Leith Central railway station, which they are visiting to use as a toilet. He asks them, in a weak attempt at a joke, if they are "trainspottin'" (p309, Minerva edition).
Renton is still struggling with temptation as he stays off heroin. Their "friendship" with Begbie is illustrated when Begbie casually throws his pint glass off a bar balcony, injuring a woman and causing a violent brawl. Renton later joins his friends and goes to a dance club where all five are in pursuit of sex. After complaining about his relationship problems with Lizzy to his friends, Tommy takes Lizzy home for sex while watching a porno video of themselves, until they discover that the tape is missing and instead a football tape goes on. Renton had previously stolen their personal sex film while claiming to borrow the football video. Tommy believes he returned it to the video rental store accidentally - a point of contention with Lizzy that leads to the end of their relationship. Spud drinks too much alcohol, as he is in a temporary abstinent relationship with his girlfriend Gail. That night, when Gail tries to have sex, Spud passes out and defecates all over her bed.
Renton flirts with a bold young girl named Dianne (Kelly Macdonald), who quickly dissects his bad chat-up lines, but takes him home anyway. After the two have sex, Renton is forced to sleep on a couch outside her bedroom and discovers the next morning that he is actually at her parents' house and that she is a schoolgirl under the age of sexual consent. He tries to end this relationship, but she blackmails him into staying in contact lest she call the police and inform them of their one-night stand.
With their quest to be sober not as thrilling as hoped, Sick Boy, Spud and Renton decide to get back on heroin. The film shows a montage of thefts, dealings, and drug taking while Renton narrates that he and his mates tried all chemicals available in the streets - they would've injected Vitamin C if it was illegal. Tommy is dumped by Lizzy and takes solace in heroin, having been told it's "the ultimate hit... better than sex." Renton reluctantly gives his friend the drug. The heroin-induced stupor continues for weeks, but is violently interrupted - beginning with the screaming of Allison in their flat. The group discovers Allison's baby daughter, Dawn, has died. The cause of death was neglect while they were all present: an infant's distorted wails play over the preceding drug montage. All are shocked and feel terrible - most of all Sick Boy, who was, as is revealed, the father. However, they continue taking heroin. Renton and Spud are later caught stealing from a shop as the run down a street, as was seen in opening scene of the film. Spud is sentenced to prison but Renton avoids punishment by enlisting in a Drug Interventions Programme where he is put through a gradual rehabilitation and supplied with the heroin substitute methadone.
Even though his second journey to sobriety begins with much love from his parents and friends, Renton is back at the flat of his dealer Swanney (Peter Mullan) within a few days. He orders a lot of heroin and overdoses. Swanney and a taxi driver drag the lifeless Renton to the hospital, where his life is saved. Seeing no other option, Renton's parents take him home and lock him in his own bedroom to beat the addiction cold turkey. While sweating it out of his system, he has several hallucinations, including Begbie threatening to "kick it out", Spud in chains, a drug addicted and diseased Tommy. Finally he sees Dawn, Allison's dead baby, crawling toward him on the ceiling while he screams and cries for his mother. This is intercut with a bizarre imagined TV gameshow in which the host (Dale Winton) asks Renton's mother and father" "Is he guilty... or not guilty?".
Clean of heroin, Renton feels no purpose in life. He visits Tommy, who is dying of Toxoplasmosis in his dark and filthy apartment. His girlfriend Dianne visits him and advises him to move. Renton moves to London and starts a job as a property letting agent. He continues his sobriety while enjoying the vibrancy of London and saving up money on the side, while corresponding with Diane. His happiness is again short-lived - Begbie arrives at his London flat seeking a hiding place from the police for armed robbery. Sick Boy also shows up and Renton feels increasingly frustrated that he cannot turn his "mates" away. As things are boiling over in the small space, the three are told of Tommy's death back in Scotland. They return home and meet Spud, who is now out of prison.
Following Tommy's funeral, Sick Boy suggests a large and dangerous opportunity for them; the chance to buy two kilos of heroin for £4000 and sell it for up to £20,000. Begbie demands that Renton put up much of the money, having seen Renton's bank statements. Though he is wary about the deal, Renton agrees. The four meet a professional heroin dealer and sell him the heroin for £16,000, leading to a happy afternoon celebration between in a downtown pub. They have a good time in the pub until Begbie, in a fit of misguided anger, attacks a customer and glasses him before kicking his skull in. As his friends try to stop this, Begbie accidentally slices Spud's hand open with a knife. Renton has already been thinking about stealing all the money for himself. As Begbie stands over his mangled, bloodied victim and demands a cigarette to come down from his "high", Renton resolves that he will steal the money from his mates, who, he has come to understand, are not his mates at all.
Early the next morning, Renton pulls the bag of money away from a sleeping Begbie. Renton looks at Spud, who is awake and has seen everything but does not wake the others. Renton leaves and vows to live the stable, traditional life he described at the beginning of the film as he walks through London in the sunrise. When Begbie awakes he begins to smash apart the room in rage - the last time Begbie is seen, he is preparing his knives as the police bang on the door. In the final scene, Spud later finds £2000 left for him by Renton in a locker.
|Ewan McGregor||Mark Renton|
|Ewen Bremner||Daniel "Spud" Murphy|
|Jonny Lee Miller||Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson|
|Robert Carlyle||Francis Begbie|
|Kevin McKidd||Tommy MacKenzie|
|Kelly Macdonald||Dianne Coulston|
|Peter Mullan||Swanney "Mother Superior"|
|Eileen Nicholas||Mrs. Renton|
|Irvine Welsh||Mikey Forrester|
Its release sparked some controversy in some countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, as to whether it promoted drug use or not. U.S. Senator Bob Dole decried its moral depravity and glorification of drug use during the 1996 U.S. presidential campaign, although he later admitted that he had not actually seen the film. This echoed sentiments Dole had made three years earlier, attacking Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers while lauding more mainstream films like James Cameron's True Lies as being more "family friendly". Despite the controversy, it was praised as an inventive, highly effective film and received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in that year's Academy Awards. Canadian authorities distributed tickets to the film to youths in that country. In 1999 the film came 10th in a BFI poll of British films, while in 2004 the magazine Total Film named it the 4th greatest British film of all time.
The film's release was supported by an imaginative marketing campaign using flyers inspired by rave culture and posters of each of the main actors. Owing to illness, Kevin McKidd went on holiday having finished shooting for the film and did not attend the photoshoot for the posters.
According to the director's commentary, the dealer to whom they sell the heroin is actually Hugo from Shallow Grave, Boyle's first film. According to Boyle, Hugo re-sells the heroin, thus obtaining the money he has at the beginning of Shallow Grave, and therefore making the storyline chronologically later than Trainspotting. For this reason, Boyle had actor Keith Allen playing the same character in both movies.
Despite being set in Edinburgh almost all of the film was filmed in Glasgow, apart from the opening scenes of the film which were filmed in Edinburgh, and the final scenes which were filmed in London.
Notable locations in the film include: