Trainspotting (UK - BD RB)
Chris Gould reviews the Blu-ray release of Danny Boyle's iconic 90s feature film
Trainspotting follows the efforts of Edinburgh-based heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) to kick the habit and start anew. Unfortunately Mark's efforts are hindered by his 'friends', the odd-but-harmless Spud (Ewen Bremner), smooth player Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), clean-cut Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and sociopath Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who lie, cheat and generally screw things up for him at every opportunity. Although successful in relinquishing junk temporarily (which inadvertently leads to a one-night stand with an under-age schoolgirl called Diane), Renton finds this 'conventional' way of life unappealing and soon relapses, spending most of his time stealing in order to feed his addiction. However, after a near-fatal overdose and an enforced period of cold turkey, Renton decides to make changes in his life and moves away to London, where he gets a job at a letting agency. For a time things are good, but when Begbie and Sick Boy descend upon him Renton knows his peaceful existence is about to be shattered...
Trainspotting makes its UK Blu-ray début with a 1.78:1 (1080/24p AVC) widescreen transfer. Although still relatively soft, improved detail is obviously one of the major benefits of having the film on Blu-ray, but colour rendition is also slightly superior to the standard definition versions (although the palette is still quite muted due to the 'gritty' nature of the film). DNR haters will be most pleased by the presence of plenty of natural film grain, but unfortunately there are some rather noticeable edge halos, which are particularly obvious during external shots. The print is in relatively good condition, although it's not entirely free from film artefacts in the form of black and white specs of varying size. There is also fair amount of wobble in some scenes, which can be a bit distracting, but not as much as the peculiar anomaly that causes the image to 'stutter' at numerous intervals. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it before, but it's not telecine judder as it occurs during shots where the camera is entirely static. It's a pretty major flaw in the transfer and not something I remember seeing on the VHS or DVD releases. Unfortunately it's very hard to overlook, and even taking the positives into consideration I find it difficult to praise a transfer with such an obvious defect.
Bad news folks: no lossless audio here. Instead, the disc includes lossy audio in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.0 formats, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they were the same tracks found on the standard definition DVD release. Despite the lower bitrate the Dolby track is meatier than the DTS track, presenting stronger bass, but neither are particularly powerful. Dialogue is relatively easy to discern and there's a smattering of surround action peppered throughout, but I wasn't hugely impressed with the dynamics as the soundtrack sounded a bit flat overall. After all of these years the one thing that really sticks in the mind about Trainspotting is the fantastic soundtrack, and that's probably the best thing about the sound mix overall. For me, the soundtrack is so effective that many of the songs became forever synonymous with events in the film. Tracks from artists such as Pulp (Mile End), Iggy Pop (Lust for Life), Underworld (Born Slippy and Dark & Long) and Bedrock (For What You Dream Of) were a massive part of my youth, although it is unfortunate that the film was responsible for thousands of drunken townies shouting 'Larger! Larger! Larger!' at club nights. It's a bit disappointing that no lossless audio is included, and one has to wonder if it might have helped the overall clarity, but the film is still serviced relatively well by the plain old lossy audio, so I can't complain too much.
Audio Commentary: The commentary track features Ewan McGregor, Danny Boyle, Producer Andrew MacDonald and screenwriter John Hodge. Unfortunately it's one of those 'patchwork' commentaries cobbled together from interviews and such, much of which is covered in the following featurettes.
Memories of Trainspotting (44:45 HD): A series of interviews with the same people featured on the commentary track, who actually discuss pretty much the same things.
Deleted Scenes (10:46 HD): The deleted scenes are mostly scene extensions, with longer versions of the Bond conversation between Renton and Sickboy, the job interview sequence and more.
Look of the Film, Then (03:54 SD): This is an interview with Production Designer Kave Quinn, shot back in 1995. She talks us through some of the visual references used by Danny Boyle when deciding upon colour, lighting and set design etc.
Look of the Film, Now (03:09 HD): Danny Boyle, Andrew MacDonald and John Hodge discuss Kave Quinn's contribution to the success of the film. Its basically three minutes of adulation.
Sound of the Film, Then (07:48 HD): A 1995 interview with Danny Boyle in which he talks us through the process of mixing the film's soundtrack. Although not particularly detailed technically, it does provide some insight into the way that soundtracks are created. He also discusses the difference between score and source music, with some interesting observations about how music can be used to manipulate viewers' emotions.
Sound of the Film, Now (04:47 HD): Danny Boyle and Andrew MacDonald discuss the musical choices that provided the backbone for the film's various set-pieces.
The Beginning (09:51 SD): In this piece the cast and crew discuss the film's origins in a way that will be very familiar if you've watched the other featurettes.
Origins with Irvine Welsh (04:27 SD): Author Irvine Welsh answers questions about the origins of the book and the big screen adaptation.
Behind the Needle (06:38 SD): This short featurette covers the shooting of the controversial injection scene, which made use of a prosthetic arm.
Danny Boyle on ‘Trainspotting’ (03:19 HD): This is yet another short featurette that treads familiar ground to the others.
Ewan McGregor on ‘Trainspotting’ (08:06 HD): This is an excerpt from the McGregor's 2002 FilmFour career retrospective in which he discusses the feature.
Cannes Snapshot (01:48 SD): This is footage from a 1996 party in Cannes in which various celebrities offer their opinions of the film.
Cannes Vox Pops (04:59 SD): This is a collection of interviews with Martin Landau, Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn and Ewan McGregor, taken after the Cannes screening.
Trailer (03:19 SD): Um, this one pretty much speaks for itself.
Photo Gallery (05:17 SD: Again, not much explanation need for this one.
What to say? Trainspotting doesn't quite have the same impact on me that it did back in 1996, but it's still an important piece of British cinema. Unfortunately this Blu-ray is a bit of a disappointment on a number of levels, what with only featuring lossy audio and a number of impossible to ignore visual flaws. If it wasn't for those flaws I'd still recommend it as an upgrade over the DVD, but as it is fans are probably better off sticking with their standard-definition editions. Sure the resolution is worse, but it's nowhere near as distracting as a stuttering picture. Unfortunately this is a missed opportunity and the film really needs to be completely remastered from scratch to cut it in today's high-definition market.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 1st June 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, DTS 5.0 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trailer, Still Galleries
Easter Egg: No
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald
Length: 94 minutes
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