'Trainspotting' was, indeed, a seminal film of my childhood. Having lived in Edinburgh all my life, and having read the book I first watched it as a young teenager - and it proved to be my first 'adult' film. The editing and cinematographic techniques, eclectic soundtrack, and familiar locations all added up to the experience - an experience that helped catalyse my transition away from boring blockbuster fare to appreciating real cinema. The second tradition of British directing, as it were.
And, thankfully, I can reveal now, that it does.
First of all, by the way, what an incredible title! A unique and interesting way to pay homage to the original's obsession with all things film, and a retention of that anarchist spirit we all love so much.
We open in Amsterdam, in a gym, as the camera circles around a group of treadmills with raucous rock music playing in the background. Slowly, but surely, we begin to realise that the dishevelled, bearded man on the end of the row is none other than Ewan McGregor's Renton. Due to various circumstances, he finds himself returning to Edinburgh, saving Ewan Bremner's Spud from suicide, and thereby being dragged into meetings (arranged or otherwise) with Johnny Lee Miller's Sick Boy; and Robert Carlyle's Begbie. Hell, even Diane (Kelly Macdonald) shows up for a bit - although not even as much as she did in 'Trainspotting'.
|Spud taking up a new vocation|
The plot itself, much like the original, has no real main strand. If you were to describe the first in terms of the final heist; then you'd most likely say that this iteration swirls around Sick Boy, and his 'girfriend's' (Anjela Nedyalkova), attempt to open up a brothel above his inherited (and failing) pub. However, there's so much going on that it seems pointless to be reduced that far. Begbie spends the duration of the movie trying to hunt down and kill Renton; Spud is constantly trying to find an outlet for his former heroin addiction (leading to perhaps one of the most meta twists in film history (if you've been party to certain material)); and, as before, Renton is just trying to get by and figure out which direction to move with his life - as much as Sick Boy has other plans for him.
|One last hit...|
The cinematography, to my mind, is even better than what we saw in the first movie - Danny Boyle conjures up unusual and interesting shots to no end, and from every angle possible. Some of these are so experimental, in fact, that I'm not sure if they quite work (a shot of Renton walking into a hotel room was perhaps too obscurely angled to be quite as successful as it could have been). Location effects include car headlights in woods, neon-filled bars, and nightclub lighting. The in-camera effects here are practically limitless, but include signatures drawn in light, floor numbers imposed on buildings, cartoon heads imposed upon characters, snapchat filters, projections, texts onscreen, optical illusions... You name it, it's in here. There's voice distortion, screen inversion, freeze-frame, widening, shortening, splitscreen, everything. Even the texture of the footage changes, with phone cameras, mic cameras, what look like film cameras rolling 80s expired film, and drone shots being used in addition to the standard cameras. In one particular scene, Spud is portrayed as the lead in a 'Raging Bull' knock-off which is wonderfully imaginative and funny. And, in post, Boyle has applied surreal touches to many of the scenes - with a chase sequence through Edinburgh being murked out to reveal Renton and Begbie under spotlights, as if on stage.
|Irvine Welsh in his own cinematic universe...|
In fact, in one scene, Sick Boy remarks to Renton that he's a 'tourist in [his own] past', and that seems pretty much accurate. It's more a sense of somber reflection than zany, on-the-edge hijinks - although that doesn't mean there aren't any. Begbie, despite being a fucking psycho, has to learn how to live in the modern world via his millennial son - leading him to realize how prison has robbed him of his life. He's a dinosaur in the modern age - with effectively nothing left. Yet in between the sadness, theres a wicked streak of humour that yields genuine laughs. One particular scene, in which the crew have to improvise a sectarian song to rob a protestant club proves constantly funny - culminating in the standout gag of the month (how do they get the pin numbers for all the stolen cards). Elsewhere, visual and gross-out gags abound - leaving the audience reeling in shock and laughing out loud in the perfect cocktail of enjoyment.
|Imaginative split-screen cinematography|
The new 'Choose Life' monologue has a mysterious je ne sais quoi that far exceeds what you've heard on the trailer. It lasts for some time, and has an emotional buildup that hits so hard, and chimes so well with modern life, that it left the whole theater gobsmacked - emotionally stunted, even. It's certainly captured the zeitgeist of the times, and painfully so.
|In da cluuuuub|
By the end of the film, we're in a different place than perhaps any of us would have expected - into a locked-room/home-invasion type thriller more in common with the final sequence of Boyle's own '28 Days Later' than anything in the Welsh canon. But it really, inextricably, works - and provides a fitting outlet for the frustration of our characters, and a culmination of the thematic verve that we've been experiencing so far.
|A good ol' hike up Arthur's Seat|
Choose spending an afternoon in your favorite cinema. Choose the greatest sequel of the decade. Choose 'T2 Trainspotting'.
|'T2 Trainspotting' gets 5 stars!|