Danny Boyle chose not to choose the rehash, he chose something else.
T2 caught me off guard and I loved it. I was expecting the rehash, but no, he came in with the energy and film making pioneering that I believe will be analysed for years to come. The aspect I would most praise from my viewing is the pacing, as it is something that was uniformly exciting through the film, but also each aspect of what made the film brilliant.
One of the main things I noticed was that, essentially, there isn’t much of a plot at all. Yes we have Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and Renton (Ewan McGregor) buying and setting up of a ‘sauna’, Begbie’s (Robert Carlyle) return from jail and Spud’s (Ewen Bremner) struggle with addiction and suicide, but they seem side-lined to what we as an audience are wanting to see, The characters being as candid as we’ve always known them to be, and, in all honesty, see Begbie (Robert Carlyle) flip his shite when he gets his hand on the c*** what stole his four f***ing grand.
With 20 years of build-up it was essential that T2 understood something that most sequels don’t, and that’s how to work with nostalgia, and with a great exhale of relief, executed endearingly. In the real world nostalgia is a feeling, a little shot of endorphins that spikes dramatically from a single glimpse of an old friend, or the first few beats of a previously well versed song, it gets you riled up with a sudden awareness of blood running through the veins.
This understanding is used with tantalising precision throughout, the well loved soundtrack teased at us in tiny increments, original clips intercut with live action of the aged characters, to engulf us in memory, whilst standing side by side with the characters. This merging of the two assists the audience to come together with the characters, we are never allowed to forget about the content of the first film and are reminded throughout of the goings on in the first Trainspotting, and how although the characters have aged, the harrowing memories and experiences forgone have timelessly stayed with them. In one scene in particular when they return to the ‘great outdoors’ and we are flooded with the memories of Tommy (Kevin McKidd), and baby Dawn. Boyle does this, whilst also creating context and tension in the current film, by having the characters consider their role in the fates of these two from T1, a sign of empathy that goes ignored in the first film. This also goes to show that the characters have genuinely matured, and possessed the reflexive capacity that may only come from one who has decided to choose life.
The only real segment of T1 that Boyle indulges in is choose life, with a spritely modern rendition of the passage. When viewing it in the trailer I did think that it would turn into a pop culture rehash, but again it is the context that it is used in the film that pulled it off.
The new soundtrack itself is riddled with oldies, whom take the lions share of run time, with the likes of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Clash, Blondie and Queen, mixed with contemporary artists The Rubberbandits, Wolf Alice, Young Fathers, Shows the dedication to the mix of old and new, whilst primarily aiming to please the mature audience.
The difference between T2 and any other sequel is both the mind-set of the filmmaker, and the respect by that filmmaker, for the original viewer. These two things are key to why films of late, which should have gone down in history as beloved sequels, or prequels, shelved with pride in the collective box set, have been scorned and cast aside by original viewers out of sheer insult or boredom, personally I find myself struggling to mention The Hobbit in fear that someone may watch it if reminded about its existence. There was nothing of the kind in T2. A small disclaimer, I was born on the year of the original release and so my viewing platform is skewed about 10 years. However I do feel that I am an ‘almost original’ as I had watched it when I was a teen and had loved it since, and so view it in relatively the same perspective and the classical viewer. As I was saying, Boyle has taken great pride in creating the film for the simple purposes of entertaining himself and his audience. He knows what the audience has been longing for, the same vibrant, eccentric, experimental joyride that he has always delivered, but with 20 years of build up behind it.
The two decades have been evidently packed with visual ideas, as the variety of shots was phenomenal. Each scene filled to the brim with interesting angles and camera trickery, (including, in my eyes, the first successful use of a go pro shot in cinema to date). This, along with several POV shots from phones and CCTV cameras, worked well in comparison to other less successful uses (think first season Peep Show), is because the shots do actually blend in with the professional camera clips, you just accept it as a regular old clip and can move on without noticing it to stand out. I found myself to be in constant awe of the bountiful scape of shots and the exquisite use of them. It was utterly crammed and I loved every frame.
As much as I have praised the originality and lack of conforming to modern film problems, it is no without fault. Be sure to try to spot the money flow, a fancy new tracksuit you’re wearing Renton (Ewan McGregor), quite the refreshing beer there Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and oh my, I never noticed how very attractive Edinburgh really is. Alongside this there is the odd cringe worthy pop culture reference, the pick of the pile must be the bad photo. ‘Delete that now’, ‘no I’m putting this straight on my twitter profile’ repertoire, maybe they’re looking for this to be nostalgic in 20 years time? Aside from that the use of current technology was effective as they did it either for a reason in relation to the story, or used as a filming technique.
All in all my opinion on T2 is in high regard, mostly on its own merit as a film itself and also on the fact of it being a genuinely exiting sequel, maybe the film industry will take heed of this and produce unique exciting films, regardless of their continuing themes. I’m actually vaguely hopeful of the next year for motion picture, despite them trying to ruin it with another Pirates of the Caribbean.
3 thoughts on “Review Trainspotting 2 by Ben Poulton”
I was unsure about this film after the violence and drug taking (it’s a generational thing) in T1 but this review has wetted my appetite and I feel ready to dip my toe into the world of T2.
Thanks for your feedback Cathy