Trainspotting: The Definitive Edition (1995)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 1-Sep-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Deleted Scenes-9, with commentary
Featurette-Making Of-The Beginning
Audio Commentary-Danny Boyle,Andrew MacDonald,John Hughes,Ewan McGregor
Featurette-The Look of the Film: Then and Now
Featurette-The Sound of the Film: Then and Now
Interviews-Crew-Irvine Welsh, Danny Boyle, John Hodge & Andrew MacDonald
Multiple Angles-Behind the Needle - view the scene from 3 different angles
Easter Egg-Talks from tne team about forthcoming production, Porno
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Photo-Behind The Scenes
Featurette-Cannes Film Festival
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 90:00 (Case: 94)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:22)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Danny Boyle
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Ewan McGregor
Ewen Bremner
Robert Carlyle
Johnny Lee Miller
Kevin McKidd
Kelly Macdonald
Peter Mullan
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, and frequent drug abuse
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?

    Trainspotting is, for me, one of the most striking British films of the past twenty years. When I bought my first DVD player, this film was one of the discs I most actively sought out. As it so happens, I apparently bought the uncensored version which has a bitrate averaging 5.4 Mbps and runs for 89:41 (including the end credits which run as a separate title for 3:04). Newly released in Region 4 by Universal, this version is entitled Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition and runs for 90:00, encoded at an average bitrate of 8.85 Mbps. (Postscript: The 19 second time discrepancy between the old (uncut) version and this uncut version is the Universal logo run-time). This bodes well from the get-go, so does it present any significant improvements over the earlier release..?

    This is a gritty and uncompromising look at the life of several heroin addicts in drug-riddled Edinburgh (although much of the film is actually shot in Glasgow). The opening diatribe sums up the mood of the film succinctly. These are young people who haven't necessarily been ensnared by the evils of heroin addiction - they have embraced it. The main character has chosen not to be like everyone else. He has chosen not to buy into the acquisitive lifestyle of the time. In the words of Timothy Leary, he has chosen to "turn on, tune in and drop out". The film presents a warts-and-all look at the effect that heroin has on the lives of those addicted to it, but manages to do so without simply preaching the anti-drugs gospel. On its original release, the film attracted a huge amount of critical acclaim, but an almost equal amount of condemnation for "glamorising" the use of drugs. You can make your own mind up, but as far as I am concerned if ever I wanted to show my kids a movie to dissuade them from drug abuse - this would be it. Perhaps my only criticism of the story is that it shows everything from the abusers' perspective, with little attention paid to the innocent victims of drug addiction (those having their cars broken into, or shops looted) - although the familial impact is covered in a couple of scenes. The film is occasionally revolting yet manages to sustain a deep, dark vein of humour throughout, bar some genuinely tragic moments. This is a seminal movie, which deserves a place in any film buff's collection. In this incarnation, it is not only a superb film, but an excellent DVD package.

    Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episodes I, II and III) forms the central character of the film and acts as the narrative thread tying the plot together. As Mark Renton, he is a heroin addict whose life revolves around soccer, pubs and stealing to maintain his addiction. His close friends include fellow addicts Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller, Plunkett & McLean) a suave lady-killer, who is an expert on all things Sean Connery, and the goofy Spud (Ewen Bremner, Black Hawk Down) who frequently relies on Renton for life-advice. From the commentary it is learned that Johnny Lee Miller is the grandson of Bernard Lee, who played M in the Sean Connery James Bond movies - witty casting there. The main characters are rounded out by Begbie (outstandingly portrayed by Robert Carlyle, Angela's Ashes) and Tommy (Kevin McKidd, Dog Soldiers). Begbie and Tommy represent two ends of the spectrum as far as mates go, with the former being an anti-drugs, violent, alcoholic psychopath who thrives on sadistic violence and the latter being a clean-cut lad, trying to keep himself fit and maintain a steady relationship with his girlfriend Lizzy (Pauline Lynch).

    The film starts with an unforgettable monologue from Renton as he and his friends run through the streets of Edinburgh, trying to evade pursuing security guards, leaving a trail of stolen lucre as they belt along the road. The first half of the film shows the daily grind for the addicts, as they shoot up heroin at Mother Superior's dingy home (so named "on account of the length of his habit"), try to pick up girls at the local disco and - in Renton's case - try to finally kick the heroin habit. The film takes a mature approach to drug abuse and the story bravely points out that whilst the lads are enslaved by their addiction, they do it because it feels good - as Renton says "What people forget is the pleasure of it - we wouldn't do it if it wasn't enjoyable. After all we're not f***ing stupid". The early part of the film is frenetically paced, with scenes of hugely black comedy interspersed with the deeply sad and depressing degeneration of the addicts as they follow a downward spiral of addiction.

    The visual imagery of the film is striking throughout. The early scenes of Renton's attempts to quit the habit involve a trip to the infamous "Worst Toilet in Scotland", where a fantasy sequence shows Renton diving headfirst into the stomach-churningly filthy bowl to retrieve some opium suppositories supplied by Mikey Forrester (author of the novel, Irvine Welsh). The lads take a trip to the countryside only to sit and drink vodka, unable to extract any enjoyment from their native landscape, Renton hilariously bemoans the fate of the Scottish people "Some people hate the English. I don't. They're just w***ers. We, on the other hand, are colonised by w***ers. We cannot even find a decent culture to be colonised by!"

    The second half of the film follows Renton's escape to London where he manages to establish a new life for himself as a real-estate agent. His newfound freedom - from heroin and Scotland - is short-lived however, as the fugitive Begbie (now wanted for armed robbery) appears uninvited on his doorstep. He is soon joined by Spud and Sick Boy, and they hatch a plan to make a major drug deal. The second half of the film is not quite as visually striking as the first, and is generally less comedic as the boys' friendship splinters and every man begins to fend for themselves. Nonetheless, it still provides a satisfying climax to the story and keeps you enthralled until the final frame.

    The main actors all put in superb performances. The only minor gripe I had about the acting was that Johnny Lee Miller occasionally falters in his Scottish accent, reverting slightly to his native English, but for most non-Scots this will probably not be noticed. Ewan Bremner played Renton in the stage play of Trainspotting, but puts in a stellar performance as Spud in the film, leaving the main role to McGregor, who shows even this early in his career why he is one of the best Scottish actors of his generation. Along with McGregor, the standout performance is delivered by the amazing Robert Carlyle. Anyone who has witnessed Carlyle in The Full Monty or Hamish Macbeth will be astounded by his ability to portray such an intensely frightening and violent character as Begbie. With the possible exception of Joe Pesci's character (Tommy DeVito) in Goodfellas, you have never seen a more chillingly violent performance. Kelly Macdonald (Gosford Park) as Diane, (Renton's brief love interest) is also outstanding in her first-ever acting role, having been plucked from obscurity after the filmmakers placed advertisements in bars around Glasgow and Edinburgh looking for new female talent.

    Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition is superb cinema. The ensemble cast are outstanding, the screenplay is very well written with some very witty observations, the plot is mature and intelligent and the whole piece hangs together beautifully. I cannot recommend this film highly enough - although you should be warned that the violence is graphic, the language frequently obscene and the scenes of drug abuse and its consequences can be at the extreme end of shocking. This film grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. Superb stuff - buy it as soon as you get the chance!

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer is generally quite good, and although it does still have one or two minor problems, it is better overall than the previous Region 4 release.

    The feature is presented 16x9 enhanced at 1.85:1. The IMDb (www.imdb.com) states the original aspect ratio as 1.66:1, but other reputable sources state that 1.85:1 was the original theatrical aspect ratio. The earlier Region 4 disc was presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

    Whilst not pristine, the transfer is generally bright and clear throughout. On direct comparison with the earlier Region 4 disc, the picture is appreciably brighter with much improved shadow detail. This can be seen throughout the transfer, but specific examples of the improvement can be seen by direct comparison in the park scenes from 11:00, the job interview scenes from 14:00 or in the Volcano Bar around 19:00. Grain crops up from time-to-time, most notably in shots which feature the sky (for example in the opening scenes or at 58:52) but it is never a major distraction.

    The dark scenes show reasonably solid blacks with some minor low level noise evident. Shadow detail is significantly better than the earlier release and is generally good. Colours are very well rendered (for example the red lighting in Mother Superior's at 4:25) and there is no significant colour bleeding evident. Skin tones are fine throughout the film.

    This transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. Edge enhancement was present on occasion, but was usually mild enough to go unnoticed without careful scrutiny (examples can be seen around Spud's girlfriend at 25:27, the building at 26:23 or the funeral suits at 70:32). Aliasing is evident as a mild shimmer in many scenes, but is rarely bad enough to be a significant distraction (specific examples can be seen on the window frames at 2:26, the ashtray at 4:51, the video case at 19:01 or the laundry basket at 24:45). When I watched the film in progressive scan, the aliasing was still detectable, but only just. Telecine wobble is evident at several points through the film but is usually fairly minor (specific examples can be witnessed at 12:10 or 56:50).

    There are still many film artefacts present, both positive and negative, but they are all fairly minor and are not overly distracting. A little bit of restoration work could have resulted in a near perfect print however.

    Unlike the previous release, where there were several subtitle tracks available (English, French, Spanish, Dutch and English for the Hearing Impaired), this disc features a solitary English set of subtitles. These are well timed, easy to read and have only minor edits for brevity. They seem to have been created for an American audience however, as they contain many Americanised terms (ass rather than arse, man rather than mate and moral fiber rather than moral fibre for example). The burned-in subtitles at the Volcano Bar are still present (as on the previous DVD, and the theatrical release).

    The feature disc is RSDL formatted with the layer change occurring at 55:22, just before a scene change. The layer change is mildly distracting as it causes a noticeable pause in the audio on my set-up. The second disc, which is full of extras, is in DVD5 format and therefore does not have a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is very good, with a choice of very serviceable soundtracks.

    Universal have done a great job with the audio transfer, providing a choice of English audio tracks. You can select either the full bitrate dts 5.1 track encoded at 1536 kbps, or an equally good Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448 kbps. Both of these audio tracks are very good, but the dts track provides a marginally better audio experience with more punch, slightly more separation, and an overall cleaner delivery. The previous Region 4 release boasted several Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks encoded at 448 kbps (English, French and Spanish), but as an English speaker, these were a waste of space for me personally.

    The sound is clean and clear throughout, with no hiss, pops or dropouts noticed. Dialogue is always clear - albeit within the constraints of some strong Scottish accents - and the rousing musical numbers never overpowered the dialogue. I could detect no issues with audio sync throughout.

    Music plays a major part in providing a contemporary but eclectic soundtrack for the film. I did not spot any original compositions, with the non-vocal noise supplied courtesy of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Bizet (who probably never dreamed that Carmen would sing whilst Renton explored a filthy toilet), Heaven 17 and Underworld amongst many others. The soundtrack for Trainspotting is a joy to listen to and fits the feel of the film immensely well. The musical numbers are a great reason to play this movie LOUD, and the audio transfer does the artists justice on this DVD.

    The front speakers provide good separation with dialogue firmly bolted into the centre channel. The surround speakers get some healthy exercise throughout the feature, and there is rarely a quiet moment for them. Primarily used to carry the rocking musical score, they also support some minor ambient sounds although I detected little in the way of specific localised surround effects. The soundstage is enveloping for much of the film and whilst it is not quite reference quality, it is very satisfying.

    The subwoofer is frequently, but reasonably discretely used to support the driving musical numbers and the occasional deeper bass notes. In scenes such as the Volcano Bar it is at its best. It doesn't draw too much attention to itself and is discretely used to fill out the soundstage very nicely.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is an embarrassment of extras available on this two-disc set, and they are all of a high quality adding immensely to the value of the overall package.

Disc 1

Menu

    The main menu is presented 16x9 enhanced with a posterised, animated scene from the film accompanied by Blondie's Atomic performed by Sleeper. It allows the selection of playing the movie, choosing one of twenty beautifully animated video chapter stops, audio and subtitle set-up, or access to the following extras:

Audio Commentary

    A highly entertaining commentary featuring the screenwriter, director and producer amongst others. Ewan McGregor "hosts" the commentary and introduces each voice, so you know who is talking at all times. It is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 kbps. This was apparently recorded for the 1996 Criterion (laserdisc) release of the film.

Deleted Scenes

    A selection of deleted scenes, presented 16x9 enhanced at 1.85:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps. They are all available with or without a (director/actor) commentary and make for interesting viewing, despite the dodgy video quality of several of the clips.

Featurette - The Beginning

    This is a fairly interesting, if short, featurette (possibly an EPK piece) running for 9:27 and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps. It features the writer, director, producer and the stars talking about the origins of the film and their roles. Some of the film footage is rather dark at times but it is nevertheless worth a watch.

Disc 2

Menu

    The menu is presented 16x9 enhanced with another posterised, animated scene from the film accompanied by Blondie's Atomic. It allows access to the following extras:

Retrospective

    Presented as a series of tremendously interesting Then and Now comparisons these short selections provide a very interesting look back on the film and its impact. They are presented full frame (1.33:1) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps:

Cannes Film Festival 96

    A series of 1/6th screen size windows featuring "red carpet" interviews with Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Martin Landau and Ewan McGregor on the reception of the film (although it was not actually entered in competition). There is also a short Cannes Snapshot sequence of interviews with party-goers at the celebratory function, including "our" Toni Collette. Presented with an audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps.

Trailers

    Two trailers for the movie:

Cast and Crew Biographies

    Nine silent text-based screens presenting a one-page bio for the main cast and crew. My favourite bit of information? Johnny Lee Miller was married to Angelina Jolie. These biographies are not identical to the versions found on the previous Region 4 release.

Behind The Scenes Gallery

    A rather slight feature, running as a slideshow of Polaroids for 5:04 and accompanied by Blondie's Atomic performed by Sleeper, in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 256 kbps.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition does not appear to be available in Region 1 yet.

    There have been a couple of previous releases of the film in Region 1, though none of them contain the level of extras on offer here. The previous Region 1 releases appear to be as follows:

    The Region 2 version of this release appears to be identical to the Region 4 release reviewed here (indeed having an identical bitrate of 8.85 Mbps). Reviews suggest that the Region 2 release includes a booklet written by Irvine Welsh for the Criterion release, but I cannot confirm if that will be available with the Region 4 version. Buy either the Region 4 or Region 2 release - whichever can be found most cheaply.

Summary

    Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition is close to a masterpiece. It features an outstanding cast with bravura performances from Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor. The story is riveting, intelligent, hilarious and sobering. This two-disc set provides a great deal of additional material over the previous Region 4 (and Region 1) releases and is pretty much an essential purchase for fans of Danny Boyle, Irvine Welsh or any of the cast. Outstanding material.

    The video quality is good, albeit with some minor flaws, and is better than any previous release.

    The audio transfer is very good, with both the Dolby Digital and dts surround mixes providing a rocking backdrop to a masterful film.

    The extras are excellent in both quantity and quality, rounding out the package superbly.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Monday, September 01, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

Other Reviews
Web Wombat - James A
DVD Net - Terry K
The DVD Bits - Shane A
AllZone4DVD - Magalie S

Comments (Add)
Is the R4 Uncut? - Dave D (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
Typo - REPLY POSTED
Carlton / Charlton - Paul Lee (Bio this way) REPLY POSTED
Anything on the flipper missing from t he Definitive Edition? -