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Long before he took home the Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, made quite possibly the best zombie film ever, or worked with a still baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Boyle crafted a masterfully stylish drug addled romp starring Ewan McGregor called Trainspotting. Loaded to the brim with hard substances and harder accents, the film became an instant cult favorite and Boyle became a star on the rise. Edinburgh never seemed so blissfully grim. Fifteen years later he's still knocking them out of the park, and Trainspotting is getting its first HD release, collector's edition style.
McGregor plays Renton, a heroin junkie trying (lackadaisically) to kick the stuff. His crew is a band of misfits, some fellow addicts, Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and others just plain nutty, Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Finally off the junk, Renton and Sick Boy, decide sobriety is too boring, so they jump right back into using again, even resistantly introducing Tommy to the drug. The flat in which they shoot up is the home of their fellow user, Allison (Susan Vidler), and everything is fine and dandy until they find her daughter dead in her crib from neglect. Shortly after, Renton and Spud are arrested for robbery, leaving Spud behind bars, and Renton in rehab. Following a failed attempt at rehab, Renton's parents lock him up at home, forcing him to go clean cold turkey. Once successfully passing withdrawal, he unknowingly sleeps with a 14 year old named Diane (Kelly Macdonald), and discovers that Tommy has contracted AIDS. Even off drugs, things are looking grim, so Renton decides to skip town, and he finds himself quite happy working as a successful real estate agent in London. After Tommy's death, the remaining crew members get wrapped up in a sketchy upscale heroin transaction that only ends in betrayal.
Now, doesn't that sound like a big ball of fun? Serious addiction, baby deaths, AIDS and personal betrayals aren't the most heartwarming of topics, but somehow Danny Boyle takes the dour material and melds it into something momentously funny while showing the lowest depths of drug addiction. It's like a dark humored, hyper-kinetic older brother to Requiem For A Dream. Everything is amplified. Vibrant colors fill the frame, realities detach, and style reigns. Like everything else, the set of lead characters are completely over the top in the best possible way. Dialogue is so muddied up with Scottish accents you might want to turn the subtitles on for maximum lolz.
The Miramax and Lionsgate Blu-ray combo pack is a hearty little release to be sure. The HD transfer generally looks quite good, especially in comparison to the previous DVD release. Detail is finer and colors are more vibrant than ever before. Audio is similar in upgrades, with a lossless DTS-HD master track that booms and surrounds throughout. Dialogue is crisp and well mixed against music, even with those ridiculously thick accents. The disc is packed full of extra goodies, though all of them are presented in SD. Leading the bonuses is a highly informative commentary track by Danny Boyle, Andrew Macdonald, John Hodge and Ewan McGregor that speaks on how the film came into being and a variety of production anecdotes. There is a series of deleted scenes that also have optional commentary, as well as a series of featurettes comparing takes on the film from 1995 and 2003. Also included are interviews with Irvine Welsh, the author of the book that the film is based on, Danny Boyle, Andrew Macdonald, Martin Landau, Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, and Ewan McGregor, some of which took place at Cannes Film Festival. “Behind The Needle” is a series of clips of Boyle watching clips from the production and commenting on the footage. Finishing off the long list of extras is a short making of featurette, a photo gallery and two trailers for the film. Also included in the package is a digital copy of the film on a separate disc. Both discs come packaged in a standard Blu-ray case.
Viewing the film fifteen years later, it seems to have aged fairly well. It's still wickedly funny, extremely demented, and somehow strangely likable, despite its cast of morally contorted losers. This new home release is recommended, especially if you've pawned your old DVD copy for a score.
--Jordan M. Smith
Release Date: September 13, 2011