T2 Trainspotting :: Looking Up Old Flames and Loving Them, Despite Everything…

From the opening scene of Renton on a treadmill, it's clear that the relationship between the second Trainspotting film and the first Trainspotting film is going to be handled with enormous intelligence and humour. And so it proved to be. T2 Trainspotting is a thing of great beauty, and the second time I saw it, it even made me cry.

T2 Trainspotting is a film full of great things. Seeing Spud, for example, in a scene of such repugnance that it almost rivalled the bum-based breakfast bukkake incident in the first film, but didn't detract from him developing, not unreasonably, into the heart and soul of the film, and indeed, its ultimate narrator.

Great to see Diane getting on with her life too, as she was always bound to do, and Renton wondering what might have been if he were someone else and not a treacherous failed accountant.

Great to see Begbie as berserk as ever but softening under Spud's creative influence, firstly when his ego is assuaged, then when he is forced to remember what his life was like before the fear and loneliness turned to psychosis. A scintilla of hope is sometimes all you can hope for with a man like Begbie, and that's what we're given here. "What about men like me?" he cries at one point, reminding us of one of the reasons Trainspotting (the book) was so special. This film sequel is special too.

Cineville T2 Trainspotting

T2 has all of the energy and innovation of the original, all of the visceral wit and glorious underbelly. It's very thrillingly directed, with all kinds of devices and directorial flourishes, and it reeks of Scorsese. Not just in the movement of the camera and a reprise of the bountiful Goodfellasesque freeze-framing from the first film, but there's even a nod to Raging Bull when Spud takes up boxing. (That's actually a flourish too far for my tastes, but fuck it. Every film is allowed a couple of duff notes.)

Both of the Trainspotting films are for me the very height of cinematic excitement. And knowing the characters feels good. No matter how pathetic or vile they might be, there is good in all of them, or at least the potential for good. For all his spinelessness, for example, you can see that Renton really loves Spud. And even Simon's anger and desire for revenge comes from a vulnerable place. As of course, does all anger. They're all just little boys really. You gotta love 'em.

The past was always going to be important in a twenty-years-later film like this and happily, it's handled brilliantly. The past in T2 is there not only to remind us and to ramp up the poignancy, but also to be played with, and both Danny Boyle and John Hodge do a great job of playing with it, dropping in all kinds of nods and segues, stylistic and linguistic and sometimes just half-grasped, like a rejected toilet.

There's also a wonderful moment, a fraction of a moment, featuring Iggy Pop's Lust for Life in Renton's old bedroom, that must be one of the shortest jokes in cinema history.

Cineville - T2 Trainspotting

There's a rerun of the Choose Life monologue, which starts off a stilted shadow of the original, deliberately so I think, a mere explanation of how they used to feel, but it becomes something more poignant and powerful when it becomes more personal. "Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently … choose watching history repeat itself."

The whole film is a trip that never lets go, with episodes coming thick and fast and quite a few scenes that are destined to become as iconic as anything in Trainspotting. For me, however, its greatest triumph is the whole "No more Catholics" segment.

T2 Trainspotting has everything the first film has, plus emotion. Ultimately, it feels like a more grown-up film than Trainspotting, as it would have to be. Having said that, it's still an unhinged, anarchic and gloriously morally moribund rollercoaster of a film, and once again, anathema to anyone who feels even slightly uncomfortable when they hear the word cunt.


Cineville T2 Trainspotting
Cineville T2 Trainspotting


The Viewing 

So yes, I saw this first with a friend here who's finally seen sense and got his own Cineville card, and secondly a couple of days later at a morning showing because I wanted to feel that excitement again.

Both viewings made me remember the first time I saw the first film, at the Ritzy in Brixton, on 23 February, 1996. I just looked up the date obviously, and it may be wrong, but I don't think so. I'm pretty sure I saw it on the first day of its release, and in my memory it was a midnight showing.

I remember being very excited to see the film, having really loved the book, and having loved Shallow Grave. And I do still remember the excitement of that opening scene. It has to be one of the greatest opening scenes of all time. It is, isn't it? Fuck it, let's enjoy it again right now...

Seeing it for the first time on the big screen was phenomenal. And although it could never have the same shock of the new of the original, T2 has that same blood-pumping excitement.

I'm going to go see it again very soon.

Thanks, Cineville.

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I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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