Official British Release Poster
For anyone happening across this after waking from a coma, Danny Boyle’s follow-up to the 1996 cult classic adaption of Irvine Welsh’s groundbreaking novel landed last week, generating widespread critical and commercial acclaim. My first experience of the new film, surrounded by a rowdy bunch of hopeless nostalgics was, aside from a 5 minute battle with an especially sharp Dorito that overstayed its welcome in my esophagus, everything you expect from the big screen.
As a music lover first and foremost, I am often drawn to movies that place special relevance upon their soundtracks. With T2 then, the first bullet point in my mental checklist was ticked off without hesitation. The easy way out, for Boyle, would have been to compile a list of trademark hit Britpop numbers and play to the nostalgic euphoria of those who longed for the on-screen continuation of the lives of their friends from the nineties. The score instead features, among some classics, naturally, an eclectic list of contemporary artists from Wolf Alice to Rubbernandits.
Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ – made famous by the movie’s seminal prequel – teases to burst into its full-blown progressive techno throughout, but never does. It rather elusively hangs in the atmosphere of the setting, as does the general vibe of the past. What this represents is the present being very much in the driving seat of T2, giving it a level of built-in credibility that could easily have veered off track in the fog of sheer sentiment.
Equally important to T2’s worth is the extremely high level acting performances, particularly Robert Carlisle’s overwhelmingly intense portrayal of lovable madman, Begbie. Unsurprisingly, Carlisle stated on The Graham Norton Show that he opted to stay away from his family during filming intervals because the process of turning Begbie off and on would be emotionally exhausting. T2 works in this sense as, akin to Robert de Niro’s method acting in preparation for his role in Taxi Driver (1976) the characters are as real as it gets.
For that reason, too, the audience has a capacity to suspend its disbelief during fantastical moments because the people on the screen do not come across as characters in a movie. Drug addiction remains inescapable, as we meet Spud, a man of hopeless existence who lost his dreams long ago. And Sickboy, the savvier of the two, uses blackmail as a means of existence – but existence means coke use, or rather, an unknown concoction branded as such.
The hurt endured by Spud due to Renton’s abandonment of him twenty years ago, perhaps reflects the real life professional struggles between Ewan McGregor and Danny Boyle, which damaged their personal relationship for years. The scene in which Renton saves (or ruins) Spud’s life when intruding on the latters shocking suicide attempt is as raw as it gets in cinema. It would not come as a surprise to learn that this scene in particular, was executed in one take. The raw emotion, for myself at least, completely eliminated the consciousness of being surrounded by the “real” world outside of the movie.
Extended from this, is indeed that speech. Perhaps I was as a viewer completely engrossed in the film’s world because it quite perfectly summed up an internal angst many have with modern life, but struggle to fully understand or communicate – myself included:
“Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently and choose watching history repeat itself. Choose your future. Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen. And then… take a deep breath. You’re an addict, so be addicted, just be addicted to something else. Choose the ones you love. Choose your future. Choose life.
In the wrong context, the updating of Renton’s classic monologue would probably be subject criticism across the board but it’s use in conversation with Veronika works in a solid, non-gimmicky fashion. As does the sporadic inclusion of clips from the original film, it lies beneath the surface, haunting – the ghost a past-life. Edinburgh is brought to life on the screen once again, presented in an abundance of beautiful wide shots, its stone cold streets and historic castle commanding awe. Equally pivotal to T2’s credibility is it’s often hilarious script, a testament to Welsh’s idiosyncratic penchant for brilliantly written dark humour, evident in the first interaction between Renton and Begbie in two decades, as well as the unspeakably magical Orange Lodge scene.
T2 Trainspotting proves that with the right combination of patience, talent and quality control, seemingly untouchable artistic moments in time can be recaptured and given new life. Praise must be heaped on a remarkable cast and ultra-talented director for a film that has satisfyingly garnered solid critical acclaim, while catering to hardcore fans’ emotional connection to the original. Considering this, T2 Trainspotting is one that you’ll watch again and again, and perches comfortably in the upper tier of contemporary British film.