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movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson

Trainspotting (review)

Choose Life. Choose the Light Side of the Force. Choose a Lightsaber.

I loved director Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave — it was nasty, funny, and truly scary. His Trainspotting (starring Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle) is nastier, funnier, and scary enough to keep me away from any kind of drugs up to and including aspirin for quite a while (although I’ll admit that I’m already the clean-living type).

Trainspotting follows the travails of a group of heroin junkies in Edinburgh, right down to the nitty-gritty, and I do mean in way more detail than I personally need to know. (“Too much information!” in the words of comedian Richard Lewis.) Of course, we’ve all seen bits of the scene in which Ewan McGregor’s character, Renton, dives into the filthiest toilet in Scotland to retrieve two heroin suppositories — it was between retching and laughing during this scene that it occurred to me that I was watching the man who will be portraying the young Ben Kenobi in the upcoming Star Wars prequels. Ben Kenobi, whom, to my Lucas-addicted brain, is a paragon of all that is right and good in the universe.

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I don’t think we ever saw Sir Alec Guinness portray a character shooting up or having sex with an underage schoolgirl.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not proposing a ban on movies like Trainspotting, and I think Ewan McGregor is brilliant — it’s absolutely correct that an actor of his versatility and caliber should be following in Sir Alec’s footsteps. But I can’t help but imagine this scene taking place in a few years:

INT. Video shop
A middle-aged couple wander among the racks of movies, alternately picking up video boxes, examining them, and discarding them.

HE (picking a video box from the shelf): Oh look, here’s a movie about trains in Scotland.

SHE: And that nice young man from those Star Wars movies is in it.

I’m almost afraid to find out what Danny Boyle is up to next.


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Trainspotting (1996) | directed by Danny Boyle
US/Can release: Jul 19 1996
UK/Ire release: Feb 23 1996

MPAA: rated R for graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence
BBFC: rated 18 (very strong language, strong sex, violence, hard drug use)

viewed at home on a small screen

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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