T2 Trainspotting (2017) // review + Q&A w/ Danny Boyle

Choose life…

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If you mention the first Trainspotting movie, based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Walsh, you’ll hear people tell you things like it is their favorite movie of all time, that they had the “Choose Life” poster in their adolescent bedrooms, that the movie soundtrack turned them onto their favorite artists. It’s a pivotal, cultural icon.

I’ve never seen it. In 1996, when Trainspotting was released, I was a toddler and not particularly interested in a film about Scottish heroine addicts and their trials and tribulations. But I was interested in seeing what the sequel would be like, 20 years later, with the original cast. I know Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Kelly MacDonald from their more recent work in film and television, so it’s fun to revisit this film that helped put them on the map so long ago.

TL;DR Even if you haven’t seen the first film, you’ll enjoy T2 Trainspotting for its character development and dynamics, great storytelling and pacing, and fun soundtrack.

Before I talk more about the movie, however, I’d really like to share some tidbits I learned in the awesome Q&A we were able to sit through with director Danny Boyle. If you’re not familiar with his work, you may just not know the breadth of his work. He is best known for films like Slumdog Millionaire (yep, the one and only!), 28 Days Later, Steve Jobs, and 127 Hours, among others.

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Danny Boyle was incredibly kind and thoughtful with all of his answers, and I honestly have a greater deal of respect for him as a result of being able to hear him talk about the film. Some insights and stories he gave us included:

  • The first scene they shot was the one where Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) are yelling and beating their chests in a basement. The cast and crew were a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to have everyone working together again after 20 years, and Jonny and Robert quieted all those fears by just bringing it for the first take on the first scene and really set the tone for the rest of the shoot.
  • He shared a great anecdote about how he was really taken by the thriller Don’t Breathe, and how even though British people are accurately known for being quite reserved, including at the cinema, his theater for that film was yelling and shouting. It was nice to hear how much he appreciated the pacing and storytelling of this film (he brought it up again twice during the Q&A) and be able to poke fun at British-ness.
  • While the US release of the first movie had re-recorded dialogue because the original accents were too difficult to understand for American audiences, T2 made use of some fun typography to help fill in gaps in understanding for the 2 speaking characters who start the film who happen to have the heaviest Scottish accents in the film.
    • This was actually an answer to a question I asked! I wanted to ask about if American audiences take away something different because we don’t have the same cultural context for the film, and I tried to contextualize it in terms of the accents and the dialogue, but he only answered about the dialogue. That’s what I get for asking a 2-part question!
  • The change in narrator and voiceover for this film was very intentional, as the first film focused on Mark (Ewan McGregor), who is essentially silent for T2 even though he is the catalyst and center of the events 20 years later. Instead, Spud (Ewen Bremner), who is kind of a tragic character, is the voice telling us the story of what happened then and what is happening now.
  • Danny Boyle actually said that he hopes people in the future will watch T2 first and then watch the original, because of how referential it is and how it changes the relationship with the first movie. Glad I could oblige by watching T2 first!

Basically, Danny Boyle was a complete sweetheart, introducing himself “Hi, I’m Danny” when I asked to get a photo with him. He was just so considerate with his time and his answers, we didn’t feel rushed at any point and he really gave full thought and consideration for each question that he got. It was fantastic.

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BACK TO THE FILM.

It was a lot of fun to watch. It’s very nostalgic, so if you loved the first film, I think you’ll appreciate that this one picks up 20 years after the events of Trainspotting. It’s about consequences. And it knows it’s nostalgic; there’s a meta scene where Simon is yelling about how nostalgic Mark is being, living in the past when it’s nothing to be glorified and, instead, something to be left behind and forgotten.

But it’s fun to be nostalgic about Trainspotting. We see clips of the first film sprinkled throughout, and there’s a great moment where, when Mark returns to his parents’ home at the beginning of the film, and he begins playing the Iggy Pop record and “Lust for Life” starts, he isn’t quite able to bring himself to listen. But by the end, he is. And juxtaposed with a clip of young Ewan McGregor from the first film and… it’s really great.

Plus, the entire film is framed by Spud telling the stories that make up the first Trainspotting, with him turning to writing to beat heroin addiction and those written stories later comprising… the original Trainspotting novel.

Thanks to BrightestYoungThings for hosting this screening and Q&A!
More thoughts and spoilers after the trailer. T2 Trainspotting sees its US wide release on March 31.

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