Trainspotting (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Renton tries to kick heroin while his drug-addled and criminally-minded friends keep drawing him back into bad habits.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Director Danny Boyle’s (Slumdog Millionaire; 127 Hours) second feature film was this 1996 break out, Trainspotting. It is a highly stylized, visually enticing, surrealistic, yet gritty look at the life of a heroin addict trying to get clean. Propelled by a rock and roll soundtrack rooted in the druggy tunes of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, and Elastica, it is a fast-paced and trippy diorama of youth gone astray.

Renton (Ewan McGregor; I Love You Phillip Morris; The Island) is strung out on heroin and thoroughly engulfed in the Edinburgh drug scene with his group of drug-addicted and criminally-minded friends. He longs to get clean of his addiction, but the allure of his friends and the call of the drugs is too enticing. It all comes to a head when he finally makes a move to London, only to have his three friends Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) follow behind with a plan to “punt” a big score of heroin and share the earnings.

Boyle’s palette in this film is a colorful journey of reds, blues, and greens aided by a neo-modern set design from Kave Quinn. Numerous surrealistic dream-like sequences permeate the drug-like atmosphere, such as the famous toilet scene in the opening quarter of the film. It is a marvelous journey of filmmaking that falls shy of glamorizing a drug culture by its frank exploration of circumstances like the death of an infant, HIV infection, and other more humorous, but still somewhat disgusting, turns of events.

Purchase Trainspotting 4K (Criterion Collection) on Amazon.com

  • Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting (1996)
  • Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting (1996)
  • Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, and Kevin McKidd in Trainspotting (1996)
  • Trainspotting 4K Ultra HD (Criterion Collection)
  • Trainspotting 4K Ultra HD (Criterion Collection)

The Video

The 1.85:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement of Trainspotting comes from a new 4K scan and restoration of the 35mm camera negative overseen by director Danny Boyle. This new Criterion release is a revelation in comparison to the disappointing 2011 Blu-ray release from Lionsgate which suffered from softness, issues with source damage, and coarse grain structure. This is a major upgrade with fine grain structure, no source damage issues, and better color presentation of the bold primaries in Boyle’s palette, although the colors are reserved more than candy colored and vibrant. The Dolby Vision grading is subtle but does bring better contrast and color saturation.

The Audio

The original 2.0 surround soundtrack comes in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Surround remastered from the original Dolby Stereo print master. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track was remastered from the original six-track magnetic masters by Ted Hall. Both tracks present fine surround presentations with lots of atmospherics with punchy ‘90s Brit Pop, ‘70s rock, and clear dialogue. The low end is middling at best, but good enough for the material.

The Supplements

The included supplements are all older but still high quality and definitely worth the price of entry for anyone who has not seen or heard them.

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary track, recorded by the Criterion Collection in 1996, featuring director Danny Boyle, actor Ewan McGregor, producer Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge.
  • Designing (1080p; 00:19:11) – In this interview, conducted by the Criterion Collection in 2023, costume designer Rachael Fleming and production designer Kave Quinn discuss the look of Trainspotting.
  • Listening (1080p; 00:12:00) – This program presents recollections from musicians on the Trainspotting soundtrack – Iggy Pop, Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Damon Albarn (Blur), Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Neil Barnes (Leftfield), and Rick Smith and Karl Hyde (Underworld) – as well as Noel Gallagher (Oasis).
  • Archiving (1080i; 00:45:36) – Off the Rails: The Making of “Trainspotting,” is compiled from on-set footage and interviews conducted during and in the years following the film’s production.
  • Remembering (1080p; 00:44:48) – This 2008 documentary, Memories of “Trainspotting,” features interviews with director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, screenwriter John Hodge, and actors Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Kelly Macdonald, and Robert Carlyle.
  • Deleting (1080i; 00:10:08) – 10 deleted scenes with optional filmmaker audio commentary
  • Advertising:
    • Teaser (1080p; 00:01:15)
    • Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:02:06)
  • Reading (1080p; 00:02:34)
  • Booklet with essays by critic Graham Fuller and author Irvine Welsh, and Welsh’s glossary of terms from the novel, plus information on the master, promotional photos, and credits.

The Final Assessment

Trainspotting is a modern cinematic classic with superb acting performances anchored by keen directorial skills from Danny Boyle. Criterion Collection has done an excellent job upgrading this film to 4K, having it looking better than ever.


Trainspotting is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo January 30, 2024, from Criterion Collection

Purchase Trainspotting 4K (Criterion Collection) on Amazon.com


  • Rating Certificate: R (for graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence)
  • Studios & Distributors: Miramax Films | Channel Four Films | Figment Films | The Noel Gay Motion Picture Company | The Criterion Collection
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Written By: Irvine Welsh | John Hodge
  • Run Time: 94 Mins.
  • Street Date: $34.99
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • Primary Audio:English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Surround
  • Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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Renton tries to kick heroin while his drug-addled and criminally-minded friends keep drawing him back into bad habits.Trainspotting (4K UHD Review)