Directed by Danny Boyle
When it comes to favorite British invasion bands, I believe there exists two camps: Those that champion the Beatles or Stones, and those that scream from the mountaintop for The Kinks (my choice). I think the same can be said for the two big drug culture comedies…on one side “Dazed and Confused” and the other, my choice, the original “Trainspotting”. To me, that film, much like “The Kinks”, is more successful at evoking a sense of place…not just time…and by doing so, adds greater stake to the proceedings.
I recently re-watched the original “Trainspotting” in anticipation of the sequel and I was astonished at how magnificently it stands up two decades on. Affecting, hilarious, stomach-churning, heartbreaking and, somehow, charming, the original remains a little wonder of a film. It’s vague ending instills in it a kind of mythos that we were perfectly willing to let live on in our imaginations. So, as the previews ended prior to the sequel’s start, I wondered aloud if it really needed another chapter. And would director Boyle be able to keep his imprimatur on it, while staying out of the way of our love for these characters.
And, immediately upon its completion I still had no real answer. BUT, that doesn’t mean it’s not a very good movie. I think “T2” might be unwatchable without a pretty good knowledge of both the relationships and goings on of the first film. It might not even be that good to someone who didn’t love the first one. But I both have and did, so I enjoyed the hell out of it. These are TERRIFIC characters…wholly three-dimensional, with incredibly well-defined relationships – to each other, to their pasts and to their addictions. In fact, to combat our distance from this world, Boyle, who stays true to the style of the first – up to and including several of the stranger scenes you will see in a cinema this year (“1690”!) – utilizes a wonderful tool (which I won’t detail here) to make them somehow MORE connected. It’s a trick, but it’s tremendously effective and helps ground the action in cement.
The only missteps occur in his need to tie off every possible loose end and previous connection…in other words there are a few “wink wink nudge nudge” moments that don’t add anything. He also forces a couple previous characters in to the film in ways that might have been less jarring. BUT, that said, the film clips along, has its own plot, and is as gorgeous to look at as you would hope. Cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, and production designer, Patrick Rolfe, have accomplished the Herculean feat of matching the visual trademark of the first film, which is important. There are visual tricks galore in “T2” but, as in that film, they are mostly in service to the world Boyle has created. And, in keeping with the first, the chosen songs are of this time and place with a couple (very important) references back to that earlier time.
And the acting! Our four main characters each embody both the effects of age AND the effects of carrying the emotional weight of that earlier betrayal. Jonny Lee Miller has, in my mind been one of the best actors around for years, and to see him so easily traverse the myriad and confusing feelings of being reconnected with his best/worst friend is fairly astonishing. Robert Carlyle, who was mostly two-dimensional in the first film, is MUCH more developed here, and provides much of the stake within the confines of the plot. McGregor is convincing, if not as connected in every scene as his counterparts…although much of that has to do with a misguided romantic subplot. But, truly, this film belongs to Ewen Bremner. As in the first, he is the heart and soul of the film, and without his specific performance, it could’ve easily slid in to farcical nostalgia. He’s a wonder. Every other performance in the film is in service of these four and, while they are all very good, none particularly stand out.
Listen, if you enjoyed the first, you will enjoy the second. I still have no answer as to whether or not it was a necessary sequel, but I sure enjoyed it, and in the three days since I viewed it, it is still VERY much in my mind’s eye. Further, I can say that it in no way lessens or, worse, cheapens, the original. As time goes by, and I look back on it with some space, there are certainly going to be aspects of it that I’m intensely grateful for, and probably others I wish I hadn’t seen.
But, like the four Kinks records between 1966 and 1969, which I much prefer to any four from the the Beatles or Stones, I’ll happily take a caring sequel to “Trainspotting”, over any of the originals in its genre.
Normally I would add the trailer here, but it has very little to do with the film I saw, so I think it MUCH more appropriate, as a fan of the films, to, instead, link you to this news story: “Fight Breaks Out In Aberdeen Movie Theater During T2 Screening”