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Review: "T2 Trainspotting" (2017)


Title: T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Genre: Drama/Comedy

Director: Danny Boyle

Stars (primary actors): Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremmer, Anjela Niedyalkova

Bias: I had my doubts about this one, but could not resist as this 20th anniversary sequel to the seminal Trainspotting happened to be playing in the EXACT same theater that I had seen the original in as a youth. The first film had been hypnotic: innovative, stylish, & political, capturing the mischievous, hedonistic nihilism of the slacker generation. And the soundtrack. THAT SOUNDTRACK! T2 had biiiiiiiiiggg shoes to fill. Though, as T2 sells itself as a meditation on aging and the changing world, it had the potential to provide a potentially radical viewing experience. Or not.

Grade: D+

In a Nutshell: Under flimsy pretenses, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) decides to return to his hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland twenty years after betraying his oldest friends by fleeing to Amsterdam with all the shares of the substantial payoff from a risky drug deal that the group had conspired on. He soon discovers that time has not been kind to anyone. Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. The theme song for the first film, Lust for Life by Iggy & the Stooges, gets played again.

The Critique: Danny Boyle is a master of appropriation. Nearly all his film projects since Trainspotting have reworked earlier movies in chunks or entirety. For instance, 28 Days Later follows the structure of Day of the Triffids and Sunshine is a mixture of Alien and The Incredible Melting Man. In T2 Trainspotting, the film appropriates Trainspotting in an oddly reflexive cannibalization that is meant to excrete nostalgia, but only produces farty boredom. The first Trainspotting, with its existential, rock-n-roll vibrancy, seduced viewers into a space that felt bigger than the moment (as all great movies do). This sequel is not just quieter, it’s dull. And it pulls all the most intelligence-insulting punches, with every moment tediously explained without ambiguity. It could not have been worse.

Shout-out(s): Still, I am kind of fascinated by the way it appropriates the first film and the novel. Whole scenes from the original movie are interwoven into the new narrative, creating a film that is nostalgic for itself. To top it off, when the character Spud (Ewen Bremner) becomes the group’s documentarian, his words—which are read aloud in vast chunks & used to transition to the flashbacks of the first film—come directly from Irvine Welsh’s novel that the first film was based upon. And when thinking up a title for his book, the name is not directly stated, but we know. It’s going to be Trainspotting, confining the world to a vicious cycle. Maybe I’ve been overthinking this, but on this level T2 turned into something akin to a Borges short story, thus the D+ instead my original D-.

Choice Quote: “When the “Choose Life” monologue was modernized and thoroughly explained, I almost decided to choose to leave the theater.” Lisa Jane.

To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix: Netflix, if at all.

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