Directed by Danny Boyle
20 years removed from a classic film, Danny Boyle manages to create a completely different atmosphere while successfully resurrecting our old friends. Much like the original, this film deals with characters and themes rather than any sort of complex narrative. However, in this instance, we aren’t seeing them using as often as we did, and drugs aren’t a major part of the plot. The theme of addiction however still runs thick in the tortured veins of T2.
Simon (Sick Boy) has swapped heroin for cocaine and is still working on get-rich-quick schemes. Renton ran away to Amsterdam, and is now back, forced to deal with his past, which is of course filled with addiction. Franco (Begbie) is in jail but is still drinking and smoking, still battling the urge not to head-butt anyone who looks at him wrong. Spud though has barely changed. He is still struggling with heroin but now wants out of life. Importantly though, Spud retains his nickname, unlike Sick Boy and Begbie who now prefer to go by their given names. Spud is the only person to say, ‘people call me Spud’. And he is just as adorable as he was 20 years ago.
Renton, having run away from drugs, is back home. Running away means running from your friends and your family. That can create disappointment, anger, depression. Missing important occasions. Simon accuses his return as being a tourist in his own youth. Which is true. Running away obviously didn’t work. That he is sucked into Sick… Sorry, Simon’s scheme illustrates this point perfectly, as Renton correctly states himself that he hates the sound of the idea, but he has no other options. He is 46, nowhere to live, and nothing to show for it.
In jail, Franco obviously wants to get his grubby mitts on Renton, and much of the suspense in the movie is based on this very obvious fact. How will they react when they first see each other? It is often thrilling and we truly see Franco as psychotic as ever, desperate for vengeance. But he trusts no one, so who can he turn to?
A key difference from the original that must be noted is that we don’t see the characters together, as a group. Rather we see their evolution as people, usually only two of them together at one time, and while they have changed, their core values are still there, however misguided they may be. In this regard then, they truly feel like real people who we are seeing again for the first time in two decades. It is quite an accomplishment.
The visual presentation, like many of Boyle’s recent films, has its own unique qualities. At times it feels like a extremely well made documentary, occasionally, but never too often, introducing scenes from the original film, sometimes pixelated from age. The camerawork is varied: chaotic when appropriate, and sharp and focused when needed.
The soundtrack will forever be a debate, but apart from not nailing the sound of the era it is set in, T2 comes equipped with servings of new songs along with some remixes of tracks from the original. But, there are also hints; teases at the melodies of ‘A Perfect Day’ by Lou Reed, often during emotional moments. These tracks all fit; they are used very well to accompany the action, despite not being original compositions. This is not an easy thing to do, but Boyle does it for a second time.
It seemed that their was a collective groan when in the T2 trailer, Renton delivers the modernised ‘choose life’ speech with social media as a part of it. Unfortunately, the trailer butchers it, completely ignoring the fact that during the scene in which he gives the speech, it is delivered with an extremely different tone, evoking harsher and darker emotions, holding a mirror to Renton. The further into his rant he sinks, the closer that mirror becomes, and Renton himself is out of breath once finished. It is a powerful moment and Veronika, Simon’s partner in crime, is obviously moved by it. In addition to all this, one doesn’t need many Facebook or Twitter friends to realise just how addictive social media can be. He is speaking the truth.
A very different film to the first, but almost as enjoyable; these characters have evolved and have staying power. 20 years later, we can still remember those moments from the original that are mentioned a few times. Not too often, but just enough to evoke emotion from powerful memories. Every actor is giving it their all, especially Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle as Spud and Begbie. The screenplay is also written and directed with finesse – scenes with action feel appropriately frantic, while poignant scenes seem to linger for an extra second. An often thrilling ride, T2 is worth the wait.
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