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Choose Life. I am sure that’s how a lot of reviews of this DVD started last time, and I am sure they will this time with the release of the Definitive Edition on DVD. So why did they need to release this again on DVD? Well the last UK release was the wrong aspect ratio. Plus it was cut. And to top it all off, it was only on a single layered DVD and so the data rate and therefore the picture quality suffer.

Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition

The Film
Danny Boyle’s 1996 film was an instant hit in the UK which is remarkable for the directors second film (his first being the cult classic, Shallow Grave). Eventually nominated for an Oscar as well as two BAFTAs (of which it won one) the Irvine Welsh novel turned film starred the relatively unknown Ewan McGregor (Shallow Grave, Black Hawk Down, Star Wars Episodes 1-3), Johnny Lee Miller (Hackers) and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, The World is Not Enough).

Renton (McGregor) is a heroin addict in Scotland. This is his story. He does not work. He does however spend all his time looking for the next hit, the next high, the next buzz that injecting hard drugs into his veins provides. This means he takes his dole money and spends it on drugs, and when this runs out petty crime provides the money he needs to visit his dealer. Everyone calls the dealer the “Mother Superior” due to the length of his habit. This is where Renton, Sickboy (Miller) and Spud (Ewen Bremner – Black Hawk Down) meet for their gear. Then, in the pub they drink with two extra characters – Tommy the exercise junkie and Begbie (Carlyle) the violence junkie. So the story begins featuring Renton’s journey from addict, to quitter, to addict to quitter.

Drugs feature heavily in this film and yet the film is not pro drugs, nor does it promote them as a good thing. It does however portray the way the minds work of people that are addicted to them. Not so much in a crazed foaming at the mouth type addiction, but in the way that these are people that live with drugs in their lives. Perhaps originally the drugs were a way of forgetting the reality of their lives, and now the drugs are in command they are a way of dealing with the dire circumstances they live in.

Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition

The camera use during the film is very imaginative. Scenes are often composed from several angles different to that of which is generally the norm for drama piece. In its now uncut form we do see a needle puncturing a vein as the heroin is injected, however in a different scene the view changes to that of inside the syringe itself showing the blood infused solution being forced from the needle and into the arm of the addict. Other scenes are memorable in other ways such as some fantastic set design for “The worst toilet in Scotland”, and some great hallucination footage from the mind of Renton when he goes cold turkey. The cast gel well in this movie, each having their own distinct parts to play. Robert Carlyle’s “Begbie” is excellent with the characters absurd temperament very apparent in the anger fuelled violent outbursts which frequent his screen time. McGregor carries the story well, as well as lending his soft Scottish vocal talents to the narrative throughout the film. The look on his face is priceless when he finds out how old his conquest at the local nightclub really is. This is a great film that really was the kick in the rear British cinema needed get noticed by the people that live here. Yes, Four Weddings and a Funeral was probably the start of this, and since both were funded by Channel4 it is entirely possibly that if Four Weddings had been a flop, this picture would never have been made. I do not know anyone that has not seen this movie and so generally it is going to be a waste of time me recommending this film as I am sure you have already seen it however if you are one of those that do not own it, this is the best it will look or sound for a long time, if not ever.

Video
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this new release of Trainspotting does look better than its previous UK release. However that is not to say the transfer is without its faults. There are a fair amount of artefacts present (that’s dust and flecks of grit to most people) on screen which is a little disappointing. Since this is titles the “Definitive Edition” I really was expecting a flawless spec free image. Perhaps my hopes were too high. In other areas the print fares well with a brighter image than on the previous release. This provides more natural skin tones and also lends to better definition levels in the darker scenes. This is certainly a better presentation than before but is by no means excellent.

Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition

Audio
With both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 present on the disc, we have been lucky. Not just normal lucky either! Somehow the disc features DTS at a bit rate of 1536Kbps with is double that of normal DTS releases (notice how careful I was to avoid saying “full bit rate DTS” – the DTS people don’t like us calling it that!). The fantastic soundtrack thumps through the rear speakers helping to provide an all encompassing sound field as well as providing clear dialogue (as well as can be expected, as some of the Scottish accents are very thick indeed and hard to understand to the untrained ear). At around an hour when the track “Think About the Way” by Ice MC is played as Renton steps into London I actually felt a small shiver down my spine. This was more to do with the memories of the time this film was released in and the clubbing music of the mid nineties more than the clarity of the audio, but it is strange that a non-important piece of music such as this can bring back such memories of university. A cracking soundtrack.

Extras

Disc 1
Starting on the first disc we have a selection of deleted scenes. These can either be watched with the film, or accessed separately via the menu system. They are not branched in like the deleted scenes from for instance the Robocop DVD, but when a deleted scene is available then a pair of scissors appears on screen which prompt the user to hit ENTER on their remote much in the same way the white rabbit option was used in the Matrix DVD. You are then taken to the deleted scene and after it ends, the film continues. If you are watching the film with a commentary then the commentary for each deleted scene is also played. The scenes are as follows:

[*]Scene 24: Sick Boy and Renton have an extended quiz about James Bond movies.
[*]Scene 31: Extended Spud job interview in which he mentions a little too much about Begbie.
[*]Scene 32: Extended Renton job interview in which he mentions his heroine addiction and lies about going to a certain school.
[*]Scenes 73 and 110: Diane discovers Renton, Spud and Sick Boy shop lifting tp pay for their heroin.
[*]Scene 142: Renton visits Swanny in hospital after his leg is amputated.
[*]Scene 143: Sick Boy and Renton sit in a park and chat about Tommy’s virus, and Sick Boy’s plans for the future.
[*]Scene 188: Diane tells Renton she has a steady boyfriend during a football game.
[*]Scene 191: Swanny is begging at the bus station, while Begbie is waiting with an edgy tension by the bus for the others to arrive.
[*]Montage scene - Spud and Tommy sit on a street and discuss travelling to Australia. (This scene cannot be added to the film and therefore must be selected from the menu)

I am glad they were not seamlessly branched into the DVD as they are very low quality video and audio and they do not really fit that well into the places they are supposed to be included in (as you will hear in the commentary tracks). Unless I was really missing something, the only way to listen to the commentary parts on the deleted scenes if they are being selected via the menu system is by hitting the AUDIO button on the remote control as there does not appear to be an option for this in the menu. Even though they were not released on DVD before, apparently they have been released on the Green edition VHS release. But then who cares about VHS?

Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition

Next up on the first disc is a nearly nine and a half minute documentary entitled The Beginning originally filmed in 1996 which details some information about the storyline and characters. Presented in 4:3 this is a mixture of in front of and behind the camera. A shame that people’s names are not displayed when they are talking as if you don’t know who they are it makes it a little hard to follow (however the names are present on the other interviews on the disc so perhaps watch those first). Even so, the sound bites from cast and crew instead of being about how much they loved working with each other as these so called documentaries can be, are quite interesting since you get to hear the way the actors and everyone behind the camera interpreted the original story and characters.

Finally on the first disc we have a commentary from director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew MacDonald, screenwriter John Hodge and Ewan McGregor recorded originally in the winter of 1996. Disjointed in the way that these people aren’t recording their comments together, however they are edited excellently together and this allows for a multitude of opinions and experiences from both behind and in front of the camera. I must admit that I didn’t know Irvine Welsh was actually in the film playing Mikey Forrester who provides Renton with the suppositories until these interviews. Each time someone speaks McGregor says their name so that the listeners know who they are. It sounds a little odd and to be honest it is, but they are all on such the same wavelength it gels excellently. Some funny quips and insightful comments make this a well rounded commentary track – definitely worth a listen.

Disc 2
The disc is divided into five sections – Retrospective, Cannes, Trailers, Biographies and Gallery.

In Retrospective we find four sub sections. First up is the Look of the Film with two parts – Now and Then. Then is an interview with production designer Kave Quinn shot in June 1995 in Wills Cigarette Factory in Glasgow. She does a good job of describing how the images they have tie in with the films look. A look at Boyle’s “book of ideas” is interesting and shows how into the film he gets, demonstrating such passion for his work. This runs for around four minutes. Now features extracts from interviews filmed in February 2003 with the likes of Danny Boyle (director), Andrew MacDonald (producer) and John Hodge (screen writer). Here Boyle mentions this book of his. An intriguing idea. This runs for just over three minutes and both featurettes are presented in 4:3.

The Sound of the Film is again presented two subsections – Then and Now. Then is an interview held in Shepperton Studios on November of 1995 with Danny Boyle. Its funny to hear him to say that the sound desk used for mixing the film was new and that Trainspotting was essentially a trial run for Ridley Scott’s film of the time, White Squall (which again is amusing since that sank without a trace (excuse the pun) where as Trainspotting is still highly regarded). He talks us through how the audio is mixed which is quite interesting. From a technical point of view, this is a must see. This has a running time of seven and a half minutes. Now are extracts of interviews filmed in February 2003. MacDonald gives all credit to Boyle for the choice of music. They talk about Underworld, Lou Reid and of course the legend that is Iggy Pop. This runs for around five minutes and again both featurettes are presented in 4:3.

Interviews is a section broken down into four sub sections. These are short interviews with Irvine Welsh (deep), John Hodge (level headed), Danny Boyle (full of vision) and Andrew MacDonald (motivated).

Behind the Needle is broken down to four parts which can be shown as part of the menu system (i.e. small) or full screen. The first is Boyle talking about the prosthetics used in the film for the injecting the drugs. The second is a film of the people filming the film as well as what they are filming for the film (if you followed that – well done). The scene features Renton injecting himself (or rather the prosthetic) with the drugs. The third is the same as the first and features the same content but from a different angle (showing a split screen version of Danny on one side and the TV on the other rather than having them both in one frame). Part four is about Carlton Athletic team who are the football opponents in the film and are also ex-addicts themselves.

Trainspotting - The Definitive Edition

The Cannes section features five interviews with Martin Landu, Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn and Ewan McGregor and an overall Snapshot of Cannes. They are all fairly short interviews. The snapshot is footage from the party at the opening night of the film at Cannes with interviews from lots of stars. Its pretty short at two minutes but is a nice little bit of PR.

The Trailers section features the teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer. The teaser does feature some non-film footage of Renton being tied to a train track which basically links in the title of the film and is presented in 4:3. The theatrical trailer is film footage and also presented in 4:3.

Biographies features several pages of text on the following people: Danny Boyle, Andrew MacDonald, John Hodge, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle and Kelly MacDonald. The Gallery is a collection of behind the scenes Polaroids which are presented in an automated slideshow to music which runs for five minutes.

Overall
Well… it is quite a large collection of interviews about one very well made film. The video quality is adequate and the sound is good, especially since the DTS is of the 1536Kbps variety. Not a film that I would watch often, but definitely worth having in the collection. The interviews are interesting and the commentary track is well made. Choose life, Choose Trainspotting:The Definitive Edition on DVD.


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