Film #288: T2 Trainspotting (2017)

director: Danny Boyle
language: English and a bit of Bulgarian
length: 117 minutes
watched on: 30 April 2017

This is one of the big ones: one of the films whose release date I’ve been eagerly expecting for months. It was released in the UK back in February, but for once Japan was only about a week behind the release in the US. Perhaps they had to have it subtitled over there!

I was pleased with the overall film, although generally I thought it had elements that didn’t fit, or didn’t gel together as well as the original movie had.

I liked seeing my hometown depicted in such exquisite detail, and the sense of humour appeals to me – it’s very black, and if you don’t laugh at the opening gag, when Renton falls off a fast-moving treadmill, you’re probably not going to laugh at the rest of the movie. And I was in stitches when Kelly MacDonald makes a cameo as a lawyer to ask the Bulgarian girl if she’s vajazzled. Unfortunately (naturally?), it went down like a lead balloon in Japan. I think the guy next to me was sleeping during the film.

I also liked how Franco Begbie was really menacing in this film. He has held a grudge for twenty years against Renton, and upon realizing that he’s back in Scotland, starts to hunt him down. This unfortunately means that all the characters are never together all at once, and the movie feels somewhat episodic as a result, and less focused. And one of the famous publicity shots, of the four characters revisiting the Highlands as they did in the first movie, isn’t actually in the movie.

However, the movie is much more full of Danny Boyle-isms than the last one twenty years ago. Words sometimes appear in the air when characters are talking, or characters draw shapes that appear as sparkling lines. The original Trainspotting didn’t have as much of this stuff. Boyle’s later films like 127 Hours or Slumdog Millionaire have it in droves – it seems to be something he’s developed in the intervening years. There’s also more of the film stopping for a second or two as if to take a photo, which had been present in the original but is overdone here.

For that, and a few other things, like the constantly-appearing train motifs that were more understated in the original, I felt the tone didn’t quite match what I was expecting. That said, I liked the nostalgic aspect of it, even though I’d agree with what some of the characters are saying, that it gets tiresome easily. And as I say, I liked seeing Edinburgh.

I also enjoyed the modernity of a lot of it – for example, there are a lot of glass-walled offices that represent power and money. However, I didn’t much like Ewan McGregor’s updated-for-2017 Luddite “Choose Life” speech, taking potshots at social media and Snapchat. And there was an undercurrent of what could be interpreted as anti-immigrant sentiment – Spud calling himself one of the few natives left in Edinburgh, for example, or Renton clearly put out by the fact that the greeters at the airport are actually from Slovenia. Later they use an EU scheme to try and scam the government out of money.

Despite all those problems, I rate the movie pretty highly. It taps into something deep in my psyche, perhaps. But more than the original, I saw it as a series of scenes that had been haphazardly put together, so it’s not quite up there.

I’d be interested to hear what you think – let me know!

Film #38: 127 Hours (2010)

directed by: Danny Boyle
language: English
length: 94 minutes
watched on: 11/11/11

A daredevil goes off frolicking in the desert of Utah, gets his arm trapped under a rock, and then can’t call for help, so is trapped there for five-and-a-half days. You can tell instantly from the beginning that he’s eventually going to have to saw his arm off – I’m just quite surprised that it takes him so long to finally do it and that he didn’t do it after the first day or so. Maybe it’s the hope of rescue. Of course, it’s slightly more horrific to contemplate when one realises that it’s based on a true story… which also means I can’t exactly complain that the story is unrealistic or anything!

Anyway, it starts of with loads of optimism and energy, Danny Boyle style – sometimes I think he has too much energy for his own good – and after about 20 minutes he gets trapped, and then the entire rest of the film rests on the one actor’s performance (except for some flashbacks with the French girl from Harry Potter), and the energy from the first act comes to a grinding halt. It’s not a bad performance by any means, but I didn’t find it that great. And overall, it wasn’t the most interesting of stories to watch, even though it does become harrowing in a couple of places. And at the very end, it has one of those things that I actually rather dislike in films: manipulative use of Sigur Rós music…

Overall, maybe worth watching but I don’t think there’s a lot to it storywise, and Danny Boyle has made better films, in my opinion.

Film #11: Trainspotting (1996)

director: Danny Boyle
language: English
length: 94 minutes
watched: 23rd April

Danny Boyle is a stylish motherfucker. Perhaps too stylish, because while this film does portray all the horrors of drug abuse… they still come across as having a more exciting life than viewers do. Oh, I can’t even be bothered reviewing this properly, just gonna jump straight for the beating heart of that old “is it glamorising drugs???” chestnut. And my answer is a boring, non-committal “Maybe, maybe not…”. It’s not exactly nice about them, put it that way…

So yeah, I could easily harp on about the complex characters or scene composition, but I can’t be bothered – I’m two months behind on my film reviewing now (even though there are a couple of massive gaps of like 3 weeks). Gotta catch up.