Running Time: 117 Mins
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle
27/01/2017, Moviehouse, Dublin Road (you will be missed).
20 years after the previous film, Mark Renton returns to Scotland to make amends with his friends, Daniel “Spud” Murphy and Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson , whilst avoiding the psychopathic Francis “Franco” Begbie , who has recently escaped from prison.
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I don’t get excited for movies anymore. Not really, not like a physical rushing excitement that I would have got when I was just a little younger; re-watching even piece of released footage for the upcoming Avengers film (near five years ago, if you can believe it). Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy movies just as much, if not more, but just as I’m viewing them and discussing them afterwards. Before hand though, I don’t get excited for them, I almost never watch trailers anymore.
I was more than excited for Trainspotting 2 (I’m not going to bother with this “T2” nonsense). Anyone time the trailer came up before a video on Youtube, I never hit “Skip”. For the first time in years I was literally counting the days until it came out, like a young boy anticipating his Christmas presents. The fact of the matter is I believe the original Trainspotting to be the best film ever produced this side of the Atlantic and adult cynicism hasn’t fully possessed me yet. The cast is back, Boyle is back (for his first sequel ever). How could I or any other not be jittering with sugar-rushed childlike enthusiasm.
To begin with, the plot is a lot more focused and structured than the previous film. While the original was simply about Renton trying to quit heroin, with little other through-lines, Trainspotting 2 deals in more concentrated storytelling. Each character has their own arc and individual story line. There is a constant progression through-out the film, every scene advances the plot or develops the characters in some amount, with very little fat. I’d like to talk more about the details, but one of my favourite things in the film is how it presents where the characterless are in their lives over 20 years after the big skag deal and I wouldn’t want to spoil it. However let it be known that it is very realistic and in some cases not very surprising, but still engaging for the audience. Begbie isn’t an anger management therapist. Spud didn’t go back to school and become a brilliant nuclear physicist. Renton did not use the £16,000 to become a Jedi.
Most importantly the plot is different from the first film. Heroin is barely mentioned, we have a genuine and convincing antagonist and their is a very limited repetition of character interactions from the original. The themes are different as well; instead of addiction, youth cultural and urban poverty, Trainspotting 2 looks at regret, aging and family as well as some slight digs at both the literal and metaphorical gentrification of Scotland and in a sense the wider western culture.
As expected, the returning cast is all brilliant. Although a minor criticism is that sometimes the characters of Spud and Begbie may be slightly more exaggerated than their previous incarnations. Spud is maybe a little bit too silly at times and Begbie is perhaps a slight too much dehumanised and too monstrous. However the argument could be made that the events that have happened in between the two films has had an affect on their mental nature, which makes sense and keeps in tone and spirit of the film, but I do think there is just one or two moments where their actions or sometimes simply their mannerisms to appear to border on caricature. I must emphasise that this happens very rarely and is a minor compliant.
The film is definitively much more visually stylistic from its predecessor. Like with the plot, Danny Boyle uses new techniques and creates new motifs to help separate it from the iconic first film, such as Go-Pro shots, some CGI elements used to create some interesting images and some nice surreal fantasy moments, which we got some of in the original, such as Renton’s detox scene or when he swims down the toilet, but it’s done in a different way and is used to project different emotions.
Another minor complaint is that there maybe a few too many freeze frames which come off as slightly annoying and try-hard. If I’m talking about the visuals I must also mention the soundtrack. Unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be remembered as much as the original, which is fine as the fist is so exceptionally brilliant. None of the music is bad, but it never grabs you as much as “Lust for Life” or is as hard-hitting as “Perfect Day“, luckily the plot, characters and direction do.
Nostalgia is a tricky thing with belated sequels, and perhaps it’s because Boyle has never revisited characters and films before, making unnecessary references for forced sentimentality was clearly not a concern for him while making his film. Now there is a few call-backs and references but are always subtle and rarely distracting and they are usually part of the plot and serve their scenes well. There is a few flash-backs to the first film, but there is also flash-backs to other points in the characters lives that we haven’t seen before, so these moments come off as natural and welcome.
Trainspotting 2 is not as much as a masterpiece as the 1996 classic, but it’s as close as any reasonable person could ask for. It’s funny, emotional, exciting and most importantly different and new with a lot of heart and clear passion both in front and behind the camera. Due to the fact that it’s been 20 years since the first, it can never be as icon as it, but there are sequences and moments which are just as well executed, unique and memorable. A very high recommendation.