Review for Trainspotting
Nostalgia for the eighties I can understand, but nostalgia for the nineties? After all, the 1990s don’t seem all that different to how we live today; technology seems little different, fashions seem much the same, although perhaps society is a little more pessimistic. Then I got to think about it, and suddenly I’m surfing a wave of nostalgia, remembering browsing in entertainment stores for videos, CDs, and computer games. I could spend hours in HMV or Virgin, it was a one-stop-shop for all my consumer needs. And now, all we have left are supermarkets. Most of the videogames are empty boxes with download codes, the smattering of CDs are second hand, and in the movie aisle, you either have this week’s latest blockbusters, or last year’s blockbusters in a bargain bucket. If you want choice... go home, log in, and order online. Still, I do buy a lot of blockbusters from supermarkets, and one of them was the whole point of this nineties nostalgia kick, T2 Trainspotting, which is currently hovering in my to-watch pile. After all, if I’m going to watch the Trainspotting sequel on Blu-ray, I ought to watch the original film in high definition first. But who’s going to feel nostalgic for The Worst Toilet in Scotland?
Trainspotting takes snapshots in the lives of a group of friends in Edinburgh, most of them heroin addicts, as seen through the eyes of Mark Renton. The film is an insight into these characters as they go through their lives, from one ‘hit’ to the next, while discussing philosophy and Sean Connery movies. Starting off fairly light in tone, the story becomes more harrowing as the characters are drawn further into self-destruction, but Renton has a chance to get out.
Trainspotting gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on a single layer Blu-ray. That shouldn’t be much of an issue for a 93 minute film, but there are extras as well. We’re in ‘better than DVD’ territory here. Trainspotting was one of the earliest DVDs, a double sided disc with widescreen on one side, pan and scan on the other, presented in a super-jewel case released 20 years ago. I have that disc and it is seriously looking its age. A subsequent 2-disc definitive edition was released in 2003, and most of the extras are ported over to the Blu-ray.
The image is fine, watchable, clear and sharp throughout, with no visible compression or banding. Having said all that, it does look as if the transfer on the Blu-ray is sourced from the same HD master as the previous DVDs have been. The image is clear, detail levels are strong, but generally the whole film feels softer than it should, lacking the pin-sharp rendition of a modern HD presentation. Colours are natural and consistent, there’s a decent level of grain, and the film is stable and clean. About the worst thing I could point to is a degree of black crush, and one or two oddly jerky scenes. But this is a film that could use a 4k scan and restoration.
The audio seems to have been ported over from the previous DVD release, a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track, and a full bitrate DTS 5.1 Surround track, both in English, and with optional English subtitles. The lack of a lossless audio track is a shame but the DTS track has enough oomph to impress. The dialogue is clear, and the film’s iconic music soundtrack comes across well, although Trainspotting was never the most surround intensive film.
You get a whole heap of extra features with the film, beginning with an audio commentary from director Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge, producer Andrew McDonald, and Ewan McGregor recorded in the winter of 1996.
Memories of Trainspotting is the new featurette on this release, running to 44:45 and presented in 720p, with retrospective interviews with the cast and crew.
The rest of the extras are in 480i. There are 10:46 of Deleted Scenes, with optional commentary.
The Look of the Film Then (3:54) and The Look of the Film Now (3:09), The Sound of the Film Then (7:48), and Sound of the Film Now (4:47), offer behind the scenes featurettes, and featurettes shot for the 2003 release.
The Beginning is another making of featurette that runs to 9:51. There is an Archive Interview with Irvin Welsh shot on set (4:27). Behind the Needle looks at ‘that’ scene and runs to 6:38.
Danny Boyle on Trainspotting lasts 3:19, and Ewan McGregor on Trainspotting lasts 8:06.
Cannes Snapshot lasts 1:48, and Cannes Voxpops run to 4:59. There are 3:19 of trailers and a 5:17 slideshow Gallery.
I don’t know about the transfer, but there is definitely better audio out there, lossless on every other release except the UK disc. The problem is that every disc with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track also has the US R-Rated cut on it, which has edits to the film. The Japanese disc has Dolby True-HD, but when I think about, I don’t like Trainspotting enough to undergo the hassle of Google translating Amazon Japan and hoping that it does it right.
Remember when cinema used to take risks! Trainspotting feels as if it’s from another era completely. Maybe there is something to be said for nostalgia for the nineties. It still feels absolutely fresh and breathtaking as it did when I first saw it, the darkly comic, erudite yet realistic take on 90s drug culture, filled with memorable characters and unforgettable vignettes. There are still scenes that I can’t bear to watch, although you’d probably be surprised that it’s only the scatological moments that make me peer at the screen through my fingers, wincing.
The script could easily have been a stage play, but Danny Boyle’s inspired direction and vision has created an unforgettable piece of cinema. The flow of imagery and carefully constructed scenes leave an indelible imprint on the mind. Eschewing the normal narrative you would expect in a movie, Trainspotting is a flow of consciousness that only begins to take shape in the final act. Often hilarious, sometimes harrowing, this film is a stylised story that doesn’t fail to entertain.
This is another Blu-ray that will do until something better comes along. It’s good enough to watch, if not exactly good enough to cherish.