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T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 6/27/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/15/2017

Danny Boyle is a genius and he deserves more respect. There, I said it. I realize that he's won an Oscar and a Golden Globe and a BAFTA and that he's been nominated for many other awards, but when people list the best modern-day directors, how often is Boyle named? Sure, he's had some missteps in his career -- who hasn't? -- but when you look at the body of his work, some great titles jump out. But, more than that, Boyle has a true gift as both a filmmaker and a story-teller. He can weave a yarn with the best of them, but it's his eye for visuals which really sets him apart from his contemporaries. And nowhere is that more evident than in his latest film T2 Trainspotting.

Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) is having a mid-life crisis. After suffering a heart attack, he travels from his adopted home of Amsterdam back to Edinburgh to re-visit his old stomping grounds. This may not have been such a good idea, as, following a heist, he left the city twenty years ago and took a great deal of money from his friends Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) and Spud (Ewen Bremmer), which resulted in their accomplice Begbie (Robert Carlyle) being arrested. Spud has hit rock-bottom and is glad to see Mark. Simon is not so happy, but the two old friends soon settle in to their old ways. Simon, along with his girlfriend, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), is attempting to turn an old bar into a spa (which is apparently a codeword for brothel) and asks Mark to help. Meanwhile, Begbie, fearing that he won't be paroled, works on escaping from prison, only to be even more motivated when he learns that Mark is back in town.

I've seen Trainspotting a couple of times and I certainly admire it. Using Irvine Welsh's novel as a springboard, the film takes us not only inside the world of disenfranchised youth in Scotland, but then into the realm is heroin addiction as well. Unlike many other movies, Trainspotting puts a face on addiction, showing how those involved try and fail at fighting the disease and their attempts at leading "normal" lives. The movie also showcased the growing visual vocabulary of Boyle, bringing home fantastic scenes such as the toilet dive and the baby on the ceiling. You may have forgotten everything else about Trainspotting, but you remember those two moments.

T2 Trainspotting is that rare sequel which takes the ideas from the first film and truly expands upon them, instead of simply giving us a rehash. We re-visit the four main characters from Trainspotting and see how people can change...but how they also remain the same. Mark has returned home because he's at a point in his life where he really doesn't know where else to go, but Scotland may not have been the best place for him, as there are people there who still hold strong grudges. However, the film is demonstrating how humans are creatures of habit and even though there's nothing for Mark there, he goes anyway. The story hones in on the fact that after all this time, Mark, Spud, and Simon have tried to better themselves, but they keep ending up in the same place. The film really branches out with Spud's character. This odd-looking guy was sort of a side-player in the first movie, but he has a great story arc here, and he should be your favorite character by film's end.

The story may invite you into T2 Trainspotting, but it's Boyle's vision which will keep you there. Lest you forget that movies are a visual medium, there are multiple shots here which will remind you of what filmmaking looks like and how powerful a well-constructed scene can be. The moment where Mark is reunited with his father has a visual which is like a shot to the gut and the shots involved in Spud's crisis are truly inspired. Boyle isn't afraid to give us visuals which may not be realistic per se, but poetically describe what is happening to the characters. He also knows how to juxtapose the barren landscapes of Edinburgh with colorful, imaginative fantasy sequences. Boyle also integrates footage from the first film with a deft hand to illustrate how the characters have and haven't changed.

I'm not sure how or why, but T2 Trainspotting sort of came and went during its theatrical release, with no hype or fanfare that I can remember. Look, if you like movies, then you need to see this film, as it will rekindle a true appreciation for cinema. Along with the great visuals, we get a compelling story which offers well-drawn characters -- something which really helps the film to succeed. Fans of Trainspotting should eat this up and if you aren't familiar, watch them back to back to experience some raw storytelling and to experience the work of a great director.

T2 Trainspotting needed more singing from McGregor on 4K UHD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 55 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable, producing a crisp image which really shows off the great visuals. The depth also works well. The disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film opens with a throbbing musical selection which alerts us to Boyle's drive. The action and fantasy sequences deliver impressive stereo and subwoofer effects, highlighting sounds coming from off-screen and delivering detailed sounds in the rear speakers. Given the thick Scottish accents, subtitles were a must here and I was delighted to find that the subtitles actually translated some of the Scottish slang!

The T2 Trainspotting Blu-ray Disc houses the extra features in this set. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Danny Boyle and Screenwriter John Hodge. "20 Years in the Making: A Conversation with Danny Boyle & The Cast" (25 minutes) is a round-table discussion with Boyle, McGregor, Miller, Carlyle, and a cardboard cutout of Bremmer. The group talks about the legacy of the first film and what it was like to re-visit the characters. They then talk about the making of the new movie, with the Bremmer cutout chiming in every now and then. "Calton Athletic Documentary: Choosing Endorphins Over Addiction" (4 minutes) has a group of addicts discussing turning to sports after quitting drugs. The Disc contains twenty-nine DELETED SCENES which run about 30 minutes. Most of these are very incidental moments which would have come at the beginning or end of a scene. There are two additional Kelly McDonald scenes here, but we also see an unnecessary subplot in which Begbie kidnaps his lawyer.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long