Wednesday, February 01, 2017

T2 Trainspotting: worth the 20 year wait for Danny Boyle to choose to breath life back into the characters

It’s unashamedly nostalgic, yet T2 moves the story of the rag bag of heroin addicts from Trainspotting’s 1996 forward twenty years. Right from the first location the expectation is set that music will often speak louder than any character dialogue, and that humour will be present no matter how dark or deadly the situation. This is a film with bags more structure than the original: more of a night out in a pub than a rave in a club.

One by one the old cast are reintroduced, each with their own 2-3 minute scene, before Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns from a galaxy far, far away Amsterdam and the onetime gang are brought face to face with each other and their past actions. How have they adjusted to a world where their old tricks and habits no longer have the same currency?

Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) has a score – well, four thousand pounds worth of scores – to settle with Mark as he ropes his ‘mate’ into a hair-raising EU funding bid to develop his underwhelming pub. But while Sick Boy plots, Mark may already be stealing from under his nose once again.

Franco Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and his libido have been locked up in prison and he seeks his revenge served cold in a pool of blood rather than as a fistful of dollars. There’s a wonderful symmetry to the blackmail storyline as Kelly Macdonald reprises her role playing Diane Coulston.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Spud Murphy (Ewen Bremner) and the audience watch his redemption story unfold as he chooses to have a future, and chooses life.

But can Simon’s young Bulgarian beau Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) stay ahead of the old timers and prove that the young generation have more cunning and guile than Mark, Simon, Spud and Franco?
“Tell your story because we’re dying to hear it”

The film is not perfect. There’s an undeniable emptiness to the immoral living, a self-destruction that accompanies the drug abuse. Script-wise, there are far too many repetitions of the words ‘opportunity’ and ‘betrayal’. The movie’s pace suffers from arrhythmia in the second half. And Veronika is the only female character with any real depth. Yet ...

... T2 Trainspotting might well be my film of the year.

It shouldn’t work. Mixing in so much footage from the original film should undermine the sequel. But Danny Boyle’s genius seems to have created a movie that is both respectful of the original and sufficiently self-aware to introduce a lot of reflection on the sins of the past. It works as a standalone film too: at least for me who can’t remember that much about the 1996 version.

There’s magic at work in the edit. Mood and music switch in a beat without grating. Spine-tinglingly evocative old tunes are mixed with new. What sometimes look like rough camera work panning around a room delivers perfectly-framed images all the way through a jerky turn. Drone shots show off beautiful Edinburgh vistas while some special effects are thrown in when you least expect them.

King Billy even makes an appearance in a song that for anti-sectarian reasons will not be on the film’s soundtrack album but I fear will be heard during band parades in the summer.

While a particularly dire bog featured in the 1996 original, there’s plenty of toilet action in T2. The adjacent cubicle scene is physically brilliant, and porcelain makes quite an impact when it returns in a later fight sequence.

T2 has an uncanny ability to generate humour from nowhere. It induced several roars of laughter from this normally mirth-free reviewer. There are funny lines, funny snatches of music, funny shot composition, not to mention funny costumes. And then there are the creative portmanteau swearwords, no doubt imported from Irvine Welsh’s novels Trainspotting and Porno.

It’s complex. It races through your head as you leave the cinema. It has characters that shock and surprise, yet beg to be adopted and forgiven

Be a dreamer. Be like Spud. Choose life.

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