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Making a great movie is difficult. Standing out against the myriad of mediocre big budget offerings is no mean feat. Stars need to align. Lightening is to be caught in a bottle. Once accomplished, the sequel needs to be even more original while lacking the advantage of introducing the characters and their relationships. Everybody knows Spud, Sick Boy, Renton, Tommy and Begbie. Focus is on the story and most films narratives just do not lend themselves well to a sequel or prequel. The budget for the sequel might be higher but it also buys time all the rope one needs to hang oneself with.
It’s been 21 first years since the black comedy drama Trainspotting, based around a couple of heroin addicts from Edinborough made a global impact. An impact of the scale that made one question if art was imitating life or the other way around, with its stylishly nihilist heroin chic becoming part of mid-90ies DNA of pop culture. Returning for a sequel was always a daunting task.
T 2 is respectful of its original incarnation. It’s the reunification of Director Danny Boyle and Ewan Mc Gregor, with whom after Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary and Shallow Grave, he fell out with, as Gregor was supposed to be the lead in Boyle’s The Beach, which was eventually given to Leonardo diCaprio.
While there is an undercurrent of regret and fear, T 2 is an epic, choppy yet at the same time also sadder, slower tour de force – a tour de force that is at times a bit longwinded, tinged with sentimental nostalgia and both aurally and visually self-referential throughout, yet one that has its surprises and twists with the comic flaws and antics of the main protagonists still intact and being a main ingredient.
It is solidly based on the foundation of its forerunner, which would make it hard to enjoy for anybody not familiar with the original, yet manages to not tarnish the legacy, which is largely due to Boyle’s chops as a great filmmaker: T 2 lives from the way the story is told more than from the story itself.
The movie got older with its audience, with them being able to relate to the mid-life crisis Renton is going through. There are numerous rhythmic parallels drawn by Boyle between Renton’s life behind the façade of having it together and his life 21 years ago, for which, again, familiarity with the original is an absolute necessity.
It can be a balance act to stay true to the spirit of an original while acknowledging the changes over two decades. Boyle acknowledges to some extent, yet deliberately chooses to not comment on current developments in the United Kingdom, which feels a tad like a missed opportunity.
T2 is a reprise.
Boyle manages to encapsulate the futility of endeavouring to relive an idealized version of the past while the sobering reflection of eroding ambition and aging starts to sink in. A faithful elaboration of the original, recommendable for anyone who likes the original. Choose acceptance.
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