T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

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Brian C
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Re: The Films of 2017

#1 Post by Brian C » Tue Mar 28, 2017 11:43 pm

Imagine my surprise that T2 Trainspotting is actually pretty good, despite the unwieldy title. In fact, it's kind of a minor miracle, in that it doesn't make any attempt to copy the first film, and it's actually aged with its characters and sees them clearly, at least for the most part (there's one big exception, which I'll get to).

This film is much sadder and more despondent than the first, clear-eyed about the damage that's been done with them, and matter-of-fact about hopeless it is to think that they'll ever claw their way out, even if presented the opportunity. I got the feeling that this film is an apology of sorts by the filmmakers for the first film, and the exuberant energy and grimy romanticism it brought to its depiction of heroin use. At any rate, it's explicitly a conscious re-contextualization of the first movie. It would be hard to watch if these guys weren't so unsympathetic (aside from poor Spud!), but to use the film's word, they are all kind of "cunty". It's hard to imagine they'd have much of a chance even if they had never touched the skag.

At the very least, after a series of increasingly insufferable films (except for Trance, which was just plain dull), it's Boyle's best since probably at least Sunshine. Of course, being Boyle, it eventually collapses into a series of plot contrivances, and this brings me to the movie's one major flaw: Begbie. He's the one major character that the filmmakers don't see clearly for what he is, and here he's turned from a psychotic pub brawler to a just-plain psycho. He exists only to bring some semblance of plot to the film, and the final act of the film is essentially a cat-and-mouse game as the others try to avoid his wrath as if he's the Terminator or something (perhaps a callback to the T2 in the title?). There are ham-handed attempts to psychoanalyze him, but I'm sorry to say that I didn't believe him for a moment, and it's an annoying performance by Carlyle. Disappointing given that he brought such life to the role the first time around.

But that's Boyle for you; until recently, he had always had a good feel for interesting moods but his storytelling instincts have always been suspect, and overall I'd say this is a worthy successor to the original. Which, like I say, comes as a surprise, because I could scarcely imagine such a thing was possible.

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Murdoch
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Re: The Films of 2017

#2 Post by Murdoch » Sat Apr 01, 2017 10:36 pm

I saw T2 this evening and largely agree with Brian. I'll admit the existence of the film feels rather unnecessary and more symptomatic of the recent influx of revivals for seemingly every popular title of the 80s onward. Still this has style to it, updating the frantic original to the even more frantic era of social media and constant surveillance. Sometimes it feels like a found footage movie, recycling security camera and phone video to create a claustrophobic view of the present. The flashbacks were the weakest part of the film to me, since they slowed down what was, mostly, a fast-paced, colorful exploration of middle age. The soundtrack is quite good though, even if it could never match the era-defining tracks of the original. If anything this is fan service at it's best, matching the original's feel without playing out as its carbon copy. It's also a good showing of how well the cast has aged, with only Carlyle looking a bit different having bulked up and grayed out a little (which makes sense given where he spent his 20 years).

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colinr0380
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T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#3 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Jul 20, 2019 8:02 pm

"Nostalgia, that's why you're here. You're a tourist in your own youth"

I should note from the start that I found the original Trainspotting entertaining but always found its status as the "Cool Britannia" zeitgeist film being unironically celebrated and existing as an entity somewhat beyond the film itself as a bit concerning. The original film is a short term in the moment adrenaline rush of a film, where everything proceeds at a manic pace. T2 is far more melancholy and backward looking, trying to make sense and something worthwhile out of a life half-remembered through a drug haze, and what is left barely being worth remembering anyway as a parade of short term jobs and delusions of having a purpose in a world that never had a plan in place for you in the first place.

Can you create some sort of story from that existence? Is it worth creating one? Or at least a story that others might want to read? Spud is scrawling out his own narrative for obscure reasons of the impulse to create something, just perhaps to leave his mark on the world. He is kind of like the Irvine Welsh stand in of the film, unsuccessfully trying to escape in an early scene but dragged back to act as the innocent witness to the rest of the action (I love the scene of Begbie getting caught up in Spud's writings, and acknowledging Spud's talent and importance. And also Spud with the outside perspective provides Begbie with his own moment of introspection about his own father). Maybe the implication is that if Spud had succeeded in committing suicide at that early point of the film then the film we are watching now would cease to exist in a kind of meta-fictional way? So the other characters have to look up to and in some ways protect Spud both as the neglected and abused 'conscience' of their gang but also as their scribe too: the one who will allow them to live on as fully rounded figures rather than just a bunch of violent junkies that nobody gives a damn about.

In a sense Begbie complicates the narratives and is at the centre of propelling the 'dramatic action' in both films, but really the main antagonist here is time itself and the characters now all being in their 40s at least and not knowing how to exist (or whether they should still be existing, or deserve to exist at all) at that age, compared to living dangerously and dying young as they were all almost ecstatically and inevitably racing towards in the first film.

This is such a nostalgic film but along with being that in the usual sequel way of continually harking back to the good old days of that great film you remember fondly, it makes that nostalgia an integral and constant feature of the film. It is a bitter, unsatisfying nostalgia, where characters re-enact scenes from the film: the same gestures, the same actions and moments, but they are like tormented echoes of things they did when they had a purpose and life seemed simpler, even if it was just stealing in order to pay for the next fix. The entire film is full of footage of the earlier film, contrasting the actors from twenty years ago with their present day lookalikes. But it pushes beyond this to even hark back even earlier through media imagery in all sorts of forms such as CCTV, television, and the images in Renton and Sick Boy's pitch meeting, which is incredibly like the use of imagery as rhetoric that occurred in Steve Jobs. I particularly like that the characters have inherited their spaces from the characters in the previous films: Sick Boy his pub from his father; and Spud the drug flat from Swanney, who had the dignity to die rather than linger on. Its really a film about flawed fathers and damaged sons. Most of the generation of adults being used as role models or being reacted against (even the musty old society itself) have themselves passed on by now, so the rebellion goes on but without much purpose to it any more, and abstracted through the media and memory.

Much like the crowd in the club singing along to Radio Gaga (or the guy in the parking garage during the amusing scene that parodies the chase in Terminator 2, playing Frankie Goes To Hollywood on his car radio) which kind of portends, and totally pre-punctures, the nostalgic Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman (even Yesterday!) trend of looking back on pop rather than living in the present with current music, which only becomes more absurd the further away from the 1970s we get. Songs from these character's childhoods, or even before they were born, having a tenacious hold on them as much as the previous generation is obsessed with World War II or recapturing some sort of illusory halcyon past of full autonomy. There is even that early scene of playing into nostalgic feelings of nationalism with an unpolished but heartfelt ballad, which turns out to be a pretext for stealing everyone's bank cards, secure in the knowledge that most of those gathered there will have been likely to have chosen a significant historical year as their PIN number!

I think Trainspotting 2 is so good because despite that nostalgia being all pervasive, the film is rooted in the present day of modern 2016 Scotland too. We are in the mindset of the characters, but the world is existing beyond their little insular bubble too, and has its own problems mostly relating to industrial decay and single parent families and a new generation of lads growing up without father figures (or bad influence ones, if they do barge their way back into their lives). This might be the best recent film to capture a sense of the here and now in its early scenes of Renton returning back to Edinburgh, and whilst the characters are forever looking back (as Veronika condemns Renton and Sick Boy, and the entire country, for doing in one scene) the society has moved on drastically. The only concession to time moving on within our little community is that our characters now have mobile phones and Sick Boy has a ridiculously giant flatscreen television that everyone gets mesmerised by at one point or the other (though they are still behind the times and not internet connected, it seems). CCTV is everywhere and the cinematography of the film (by Anthony Dod Mantle, seemingly continuing the day-glo stylisations of Dredd) is constantly shifting around the characters, going from looking like a 90s video to incredibly stylised and artificial, especially during that first chase between Renton and Begbie through the streets, but also in Renton first visiting Sick Boy's pub and the ending sequence.

Everything gets steadily more and more artificial (with seemingly calculated in their fake impact CGI shots, notably the final shot of course) as if to show how any notions of reality are slipping away from the characters. Buildings and streets glow with neon coloured highlights (like in that film Nerve from around the same time). Some of the climax in that mirrored bathroom feels as if it is consciously alluding to Enter The Void, The Lady of Shanghai, The Shining and Blade Runner simultaneously!

Also there are so many moments that tie in with Danny Boyle's other films beyond Trainspotting: the trip to the woods to potentially dig another couple of Shallow Graves, all of the imagery being projected onto walls is so much like Steve Jobs, and the way that the main female character 'gets away' with the money at the end feels like it is alluding to the ending of Trance.

But I can see why this sequel might not be received as rapturously as the original film. This is much more downbeat (though far more moving, and almost as funny!) and bleak. The drug taking is not so much the primary focus any more. The supreme moment of being for all of the characters was at the end of the first Trainspotting, with half of the surviving cast asleep and blissfully unaware of being betrayed, with those awake to the future knowing the money's not going to last forever and it was only a short term solution. An intense but fleeting high. If you have any sort of nostalgia for the 'coolness' of Trainspotting and the 'triumph' of the climax of that film, then it is best to leave it like that and never wake up to the inevitable harsh bump back to the present that a twenty years later sequel brings with it. In the end only writing remains, even if nobody wants to read it.

And what about that montage of high rise flats being demolished in the end credits? To make way for future housing, or just to clear the junkies from the area?

T2 is really a film about the impulsive idiocy of youth turning into the impulsive idiocy of middle age, just with the ability to bounce back (or get it up) starting to wear off for a realisation that even the possibility of a bright future at the end of the dingy tunnel does not exist any more (or is just a CGI illusion when it does) and everyone ends up returning back over and over again to where they began, older and frailer but if they are lucky with a modern remix of Lust For Life to dance to rather than just the same old song over and over again.

(Oh, and speaking of 90s nostalgia I had not realised before seeing the film how much I had missed seeing Ewan McGregor running around naked in films again! Nice to see him getting back to basics!)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:50 am, edited 7 times in total.

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colinr0380
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T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#4 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:04 am

I also like that T2 Trainspotting might just be the first film to feature its own 'then and now' location tour within it! What a film though, maybe Danny Boyle's best. If Criterion ever get to re-releasing Trainspotting back into the collection I really hope that they add T2 to it as well as it is almost an essential part of it (or at least important counterpoint) now, as well as its own comment on the inevitably unsatisfying and arguably unnecessary nature of sequels to era-defining films that can only ever serve to puncture our frozen in time images of the characters with mundane reality of simply continuing to have gone on existing.

I think that this also shows how important a fulcrum film that The Beach is to understanding Boyle's work, as T2 plays like the dark spiralling into violence ending similar to the final sections of The Beach after the first Trainspotting's (mostly) sunny hedonistic opening. The characters are constantly looking back on the 'simpler' times and wishing that they were back there again in their youthful prime without acknowledging that there were bad parts going on even back then and with the seeds of the inevitable destruction of their ersatz community embodied within the neuroses of the characters themselves!

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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#5 Post by ford » Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:17 am

To be honest, I couldn't get over the almost ruthless pro-EU propaganda of this movie. It literally spells out it's "progressive" neoliberal message which is basically a massive transfer of wealth upwards but pretending it's some forward social advance: yes, Scotland, your working classes are dying, manufacturing will never come back (Robert Carlyle's speech about being obsolete), and getting obese ("Nobody used to be fat!!")--and, as the movie makes clear, that's okay. That's good, in fact. Hell, look at how many of you are just die hard racists (the anti-Catholic/ATM scene). "It's time for you to fade away and die so that the periphery [Bulgaria] can improve."

I'm sure that's all just a healthy, "natural" process for a wealthy man like Danny Boyle.

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Murdoch
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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#6 Post by Murdoch » Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:00 am

It's very strange to me to read someone equivocating prejudice against Catholicism as racism. Has racism just become a blanket term for any kind of prejudice now?

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colinr0380
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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#7 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 1:03 pm

I can see ford's point and looked at in isolation I would perhaps agree with it, as I often have major issues with Danny Boyle's films being about 'unthinking celebration of capitalism' and taking a rather simplistic approach to the United Kingdom's place in the world that privileges interchangeable 'progress' over the individuals being tossed away to get to that final promised land destination where everything is better again (whether it is the expendable crew of a spaceship, or the expendable members of the Beatles all getting distilled down into the main protagonist and their willpower to change the course of events). But I think that is what makes Trainspotting 2 and its bitter echoing of the earlier Blair's Britain, Cool Britannia film more ironic, in that the characters whatever their political context are still fruitlessly ranting. These do not feel like particularly political characters in the sense that they do not appear to have too much of a thought through approach to their position in life. Lack of thought for the future becomes an excess of regard for the past and perhaps for the similar reason that none of the characters have much of a say in their present circumstances.

Politics (and religion) is not really a part of the character's lives, except when used as a weapon or a chink in someone's armour that could be exploited. Idealists are perhaps the most abused figures in his films, because they are truly deluded and single mindedly driven to destructive ends for the greater good. And really in any Danny Boyle film politics or religion seem to be far, far less important than the extremely short term driving force of the need for money.(Even race and class, though they more often appear. And it is why it sometimes seems clunky when these aspects are brought up because if they do appear it is usually only because they make the money issues between the haves and have nots clearer rather than being about any other particular 'social injustice' point or particularly in depth portrait of a community). There's a reason why he made a wish fulfilment film about kids winning the lottery, or why he made a film in India that has little interest in the country and feels like its main love story occurs less between the central couple than between the contestant and question master on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? show. Its all about how far one will go in order to get the slim opportunity to reach that cash, often involving a spectacular get rich quick scheme, and often just as quickly losing it again.

Renton himself has been 'living in Amsterdam' in his 20 year stretch (like one of those Great Train Robbers living in the Costa Del Sol, or the protagonist of Sexy Beast. Only he was doing it on just £16,000, give or take what he left for Spud) trying to do the ex-pat thing, and whilst he has his mirroring choose life speech, updating it with modern buzzwords such as smart phones and Facebook, he is doing it in the full knowledge that its the same old song whatever the period, just with the latest concerns of the era slotted into it. Renton is the rhetorician (though the act, like the character himself, is getting a bit old), Spud the scribe, Sick Boy the enterpreneur and that presumably makes Begbie the violent militant.

This might be because Boyle is a Mancunian rather than Scottish but the closest we get to any idea of nationalism is that veiled targeting of sectarian nationalists political factions, getting drunk and singing tunes about the glories of yesteryear. And it is only used for a gag about how easy it is to appeal to such figures in order to fleece them of their cash! There is no real tackling of Scottish nationalism as its own thing per se, and the only other real political comment comes from the Bulgarian shared girlfriend figure Veronika who equates the entire UK together as trapped in thinking about its past (including extolling the virtues of John Barry, and therefore the Bond films. Which is way back in the 1960s! And which is a bit ironic in Boyle's recent abortive brush with directing one of them!) rather than forgetting it for the short term Blairist, almost conscience-less present that she embodies. In a sense both Renton and Veronika have done the whole 'European migrant across open borders' thing that was meant to have self actualised them, and still found few opportunities even in their new environments and only a nostalgia for home. But I don't particularly get the impression that Bulgaria will be a land of promise for Veronika, much as Scotland was not for Renton after his return, just that at the end of the respective films that we have exchanged one figure leaving the country in possession of a lot of money for another one.

In a way its kind of an ironic answer to The Full Monty too: yes, the regions have no industry and you will have to transfer your skills from manufacturing and industry to the service sector. Though instead of steel workers becoming successful strippers, here we have junkies in the already rubble strewn, beginning to be reclaimed by nature industrial wasteland (that was already getting that way at the time of the first film) and their vague attempts at turning an inherited pub into a sauna/brothel. Until they get brought up short by one of the owners of the brothel system in the local area, upset by these people unwittingly bumbling their way into his territory. I think that links into the way that the film is going more and more detached, from the CCTV through to the neon hued environment and obvious CGI, as the characters have reached the point where they feel like they want to re-enter the society again as enterpreneurs rather than labourers, but find that there's no reality left to build a life from even in the service sector now. Its all gone ethereal and abstract rather than concrete and steel.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jul 30, 2019 5:17 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Murdoch
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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#8 Post by Murdoch » Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:17 pm

Very well put, Colin, and also thank you for revitalizing this thread. The film unfortunately went unnoticed on release but with your write-up hopefully more from the board will give it a watch and share their thoughts.

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colinr0380
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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#9 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 3:22 am

Thanks Murdoch. I'm ambivalent on Danny Boyle's films but did like this one, mostly because Boyle's aesthetisisation and nakedly aspirational side seems countered a bit by Irvine Welsh's (and John Hodge's) humourously bleak cynicism about the state of the world (something quite different from collaborating with, say, Richard Curtis! Even if it is just as solipsistic in some ways!). I cannot really imagine Boyle given the choice really choosing to have tackled this kind of material at this point in his career if it was an entirely new standalone project, and it is what makes the existence of this film ironic and strange that with Trainspotting being both one of his earliest, biggest and constant zeitgeist-y successes it has kind of forced him to have to go back and re-confront his material in the way he will never have to for something like Shallow Grave.

The one moment I might have qualms about is not a deal breaking one, but involves spoilers for the ending:
SpoilerShow
When Renton returns home, walks up the stairs to his waiting father and embraces him for perhaps the first time since he became a drug addict. I was kind of prepared for the father to do a ghostly fade out before Renton got to him or whilst the embrace was happening (or maybe even for both of them to fade out, suggesting Renton has committed suicide himself, which would have neatly bookended him saving Spud earlier on. Though I suppose Spud does repay his life debt to Renton in the final fight, which is a bookend enough), but that does not happen. Especially after Renton's ranting and everyone else having lost their father figures it seems a little too pat and easy to end on that moment of reconciliation 'fixing' everything. Too simplistic a climax, though perhaps that was the necessary concession to letting the audience leave the theatre feeling there was some sliver of Renton being able to follow a different path than his companions (much as there is a slight hope in the way that Begbie and his son can reconcile). Though I suppose there is enough leeway to let us still pretend that that moment was taking place just in Renton's head if we really wish to!

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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#10 Post by nitin » Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:24 am

I also liked the movie for largely the reasons Colin mentions but the Begbie material in the last 20-30 min *almost* derailed it for me.

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Murdoch
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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#11 Post by Murdoch » Mon Jul 22, 2019 3:01 pm

The film's certainly not without its flaws, and most of the Begbie material didn't work for me except the confrontation with his son (which I thought was well done both dramatically and aesthetically with the rapid shifting from Begbie to his son's perspective).

Regarding Boyle as a filmmaker, this is the only film of his that I wholeheartedly embrace. The original film never clicked for me since I found the humor to be juvenile and the plot meandering in search of a central conflict (which may be the point but I wasn't so in love with the characters that I was all that interested in watching them shoot up over and over).

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Re: T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

#12 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 3:46 pm

It is interesting that the characters are all at different stages with regards to their drug use, with Spud having gone back to heroin "like an old friend" after the collapse of his life, whilst Sick Boy appears to be more into cocaine rather than heroin (which I guess is some kind of development? I'm not that familiar with the nuances, so is cocaine as bad as heroin or worse? Or does cocaine drive everyone manic whilst heroin slows people down, as in a stimulant versus an opiod? Or is it just meant to be an economic comment that cocaine is the drug for those with the money to afford it? Amusingly Begbie's drug of choice is just purloined Viagra!). The scene that I most like from the film is probably the one in which Renton and Sick Boy return to their old drug haunt flat, now occupied by Spud, and do heroin together (NSFW) again for the first time whilst Spud looks on in horror at them getting back into the habit. That's brilliantly upsetting as well as quite funny to have Spud in the position of the older unfazed Mother character played by Peter Mullan in the first film.

And I like the way that the flat is perhaps the key location of the film, covered in Spud's writings, with that room that they shoot up in also being the room that Begbie has his epiphany about his father in as well.

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