Sunday, 19 February 2017


Sequels are tricky aren't they. Whenever marketed right they'll perform well in terms of numbers at a box office and obviously line the pockets of everyone involved. I don't mean tricky in that sense, but in terms of keeping a sense of artistic integrity. That's the real struggle with them. More often than not sequels tend to be shite, and in so they take away from the magic of the first movie. It's a double edged sword. It was with this in mind that I sat down to watch T2 Trainspotting the other night. Director Danny Boyle and screen writer John Hodge were back, and they'd brought the original cast with them. Always a good sign that the actors involved who obviously hold the original a lot dearer than me want in on the cake, and it turned out to be bloody good cake too.

The film is set 20 years after the original, back in Edinburgh with Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) revisiting his old haunts and looking to make amends with the old gang over how the first movie ended. When I found this out, I liked it. My favourite thing about Trainspotting '1' (weird) was the characters and how they interacted with each other. These real honest relationships on screen that are so familiar to all of us. The relatively simple plot leaves loads of room for exactly that. It doesn't need complicating. The first one was a window into how these people lived and how the way they lived lead to events mapping out. I'm glad the second was similar to this.

It's almost impossible to look at this film on it's own without constantly comparing it to the first one. First of all it's the same characters back in the same city as before. It's natural you're going to sit and compare. The film pays tribute to this with constant flashbacks and nods to the first movie, which was a nice touch. Also, the whole point of the movie is how time flies and people change and reflecting on this. It's nostalgic. Each of these characters have changed since the first one, but in the way people do. They've all grown more into themselves in one way or another, for better or worse. Watching the movie I felt like I know people like these people in real life and have seen them follow similar paths these characters have in the last 20 years. It's so real, it made me consider that even though John Hodge didn't write these characters he must know people like this because they were so 3 dimensional.

It's still as brutal and full on as the first one. Without giving too much away they look at heavy drug abuse, suicide, domestic abuse, institutionalisation, prostitution and many other themes that'll make you squirm in your seat. It's a real, full blown certificate 18 movie. As is the first one it's a tough, honest look at what humans allow themselves to be reduced to. There are plenty of scenes where old friends voice home truths to each other that cut deep. Speeches they've been planning in their heads for 20 years. The way people do when they stew over something. Uncomfortable viewing where you feel like you should not be present for what should be a very private conversation. Aside from it being a heavy watch it was very funny in places too, with that same honest and at times disgusting wit.

My one criticism would be just how hard they play on the nostalgia factor. I'm still undecided wether it was a bad thing, but they certainly tread close to the edge by the end of the movie. At times it was like watching a reunion where they're touring the locations from the first movie all wanking off over how amazing the first Trainspotting was. It was clear to see these actors and Danny Boyle were proud of the first one and wanted to acknowledge it, paying tribute to it every chance they got. But then on the other hand it kind of works, as the point of the story is nostalgia and reflection, watching Renton played by McGregor visit these places and consider how things have changed in 20 years. It would be impossible for him to visit his hometown after so many years away and it not be nostalgic, but at times it just felt like that's what had compelled Danny Boyle to make this movie.

All in all it was a great watch. It was wonderfully shot with really interesting cinematography (as I remember the first one was) and it still had all the magic these wonderful characters bring when they're on screen together. It was tense and exciting and unpredictable throughout. Edinburgh looked cool too, the locations were amazing and it was as fun seeing how much the city had changed (and not changed) in the last 20 years as well as the characters. It was honest and uneasy, and that's all I wanted when I sat down. It was a sequel done the way all sequels should be done, paying mind to the story, the characters and artistic integrity before thinking about profits. It didn't at all take away from the first one, it made me realise how iconic and great it is. If you like the original, go see this. If you don't like the original, watch it again, realise you were wrong and then go see this.

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