Film review – T2: Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017)

Trainspotting was one of the quintessential moments of British film in the 1990s, helping to define a generation and giving them a voice on the silver screen. It catapulted director Danny Boyle and his cast to international fame, with lead Ewan McGregor reaping the lion’s share of the benefits as it launched his path to stardom.

I was probably just slightly too young to enjoy the original on its initial release, catching it on VHS in around 1999 at the age of 15. But the effects were still strong amongst people my age – the music soundtracked our lives as much as the likes of Morning Glory and Parklife did. The imagery in the advertising campaign was arresting and inescapable. Finally watching the film I was blown away that something so popular was set in a Britain far more familiar than every other British film that seemed readily available at the time, all of which seemed to star Hugh Grant. 

The boys are back in town

When the sequel was announced, there was a certain amount of trepidation from fans of the original. It seemed unlikely that the success of the original could ever be matched. It wouldn’t have the same effect on society. The soundtrack surely wouldn’t be as good. Plus there’s the twenty years of nostalgia to contend with. So how does it stand up?The answer is, thankfully, very well indeed.

The plot centres around Renton (McGregor) returning to Edinburgh for the first time in twenty years, catching up with his old friends Spud (Ewen Bremner), Rent Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlysle). Time has passed and this has inevitably changed the four men, but it has also drastically changed the world around them too. It also hasn’t been long enough for two of the group to forgive Renton for what happened at the end of the first film.

Reimagining their friendship so far down the line when there hasn’t really been a particular push recently for a sequel to be made proves that this film has been made for all the right reasons. Danny Boyle and his team knew there was a story to be told here and it is told brilliantly.

As in the original, music plays a crucial role. There are reimaginings of three of the biggest hits associated with the original: Lust for Life, Born Slippy and Perfect Day. Elsewhere, more modern artists offer more up-to-date contributions from the likes of Young Fathers and Wolf Alice.

It won’t have the same cultural impact as the original, and few films have. It is, however, extremely relevant for those who lived through the first instalment, having an uncanny ability to reflect what has happened to almost everyone in society in the past two decades.

It is undoubtedly one of the best cinematic sequels we’ll see this decade.

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Secret Cinema: 28 Days Later Preview

It’s back and it’s hungry for flesh!!

Secret Cinema have announced their next big event. It’s a good one! Read on for more details.

What is Secret Cinema?

Secret Cinema is a company that specialises in totally immersive cinema experiences. You spend an evening totally absorbed in surroundings typical of the film on which the night is based.

There are two types of event Secret Cinema organises. Both are highly similar but with subtle differences.

Secret Cinema: Tell No One (not this event)

The first is the kind they made their names doing – completely secret smaller events for films many would consider to be cult classics. Nobody knows the film until they show up, and from then on anything can happen. 

When they tackled The Shawshank Redemption, for example, people were snarled at by an angry police officer who informed them they were all convicts. He then walked them, single-file, through a busy shopping centre to their transport to a local high-security prison. It’s all good-spirited and great fun for those with an interest in surprises and adventure. The recent Tell No One event falls into this category (and is still going on so the name of the film won’t be revealed). 

Secret Cinema Presents (this event)

The second type tend to be larger in scale and the film is announced well in advance. This is the category last year’s Empire Strikes Back event falls into, along with the previous year’s Back to the Future. Both were excellently received and left people wanting more large-scale events.

The latter type is better for those unfamiliar with more obscure films who want to know that they’ll enjoy the night before they attend and pay for the tickets.

Either way, whatever they do the nights are always highly immersive experiences and well worth the money. They have carved out a massive area of the market that most people didn’t even think existed.

What’s the next event?

This next event in their calendar is Danny Boyle’s zombie survival horror 28 Days Later. It is a Secret Cinema Presents night, so the film is common knowledge. No surprises this time around!

What’s the film like?

28 Days Later revolutionised the popularity of zombie films as a genre. It was a shift in terms of the technology used. Boyle used Canon XL1 digital video cameras to allow the manoeuvrability to shoot the desolate London scenes, but they had a knock-on effect that gave the film a sort of CCTV-type feeling to it, like it was recovered footage. It starts with the lead character Jim (Cillian Murphy in his breakthrough role) waking up from a coma in a hospital with no knowledge of how he got there.

We learn what’s happening as he does, finding fellow survivors along the way and hoping to reach some kind of freedom. It captured the imagination of cinema-goers during its original release, instantly becoming a hit in both the UK and USA.

 

What can we expect?

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that it is really just any excuse to do a zombie-themed event. Anyone who has experience of Secret Cinema will know that this is very unlikely.

The event will, inevitably, involve hoards of zombies. One way that the film kept us gripped is the constant use of impending terror. It was the first film to use running zombies, so expect these to be present at the event too. Better take your running shoes!

I imagine it will incorporate the military as a key element. In the film they weren’t necessarily to be trusted, and there’s a fantastic scene in a fortified mansion that could utilise the open-air quite well if that’s the path they choose to go down.

Whether or not we’ll be killing zombies or just avoiding them remains to be seen. If we are doing that, it will need to be reasonably safe or there could be some serious injuries. No head-shots people!

Clothing is always a key part of the events and advice on outfits will be sent out in advance. It’s possible that it will be one of the easiest Secret Cinema events to dress for. The film is set in the present day (or ten years ago at least) and presumably we won’t be asked to dress up as zombies. I’d imagine it will be a case of wearing anything for once rather than trying to get hold of any specific costumes. No desperate searches for tan and black scarves required this time! Perhaps a medical outfit will be required for some people.

It will be a great experience to witness a modern cult classic on a massive screen with an enthusiastic audience.

 

How do I buy tickets?

Tickets are on sale for the event right now and are selling fast. Head to the official webpage for more details.

Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle, 2015)

The 2015 BFI London Film Festival came to a close this evening with the European Premiere of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs. With all the stars out on the red carpet, it had all the hallmarks of a blockbuster finale on the scale of any of the Apple product launches we’ve become so accustomed to.

The biopic plays out in three distinct acts, all during iconic Jobs-headed product launches: the 1984 launch of the first Macintosh home computer; the 1988 launch of the NeXT Computer for NeXT Inc. (the company Jobs set up after being forced out of Apple); and ending with the 1998 launch of the first iMac computer.

Jobs worth

Jobs worth

Whilst it may risk being a big advert for Apple, the poor picture painted of the figurehead of the company throughout ensures that is never the case. The Steve Jobs we get to know over the course of the three acts, which play out in real time in the lead up to each of the presentations Jobs is giving, is narcissistic and self-centred, only relenting from the power trip when he finally achieves the success he has been driving for. It shows softer sides of his personality and attempts to justify his unique traits but the focus on his tempestuous relationship with his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and their child Lisa ensures his best side is never seen.

It is actually a difficult watch throughout. It is basically two hours of arguments, eventually becoming tiring. It does successfully portray the frantic and intense atmosphere of a huge-scale product launch in a very real manner. It fails, however, to convince that this is a good platform for great cinema.

Michael Fassbender plays the Steve Jobs we see here to perfection, capturing the nuances required of someone who is heartless to the extent of being cruel. Kate Winslet’s turn as Joanna Hoffman is steadier than her accent, and Seth Roger puts in an adequate performance as Steve Wozniak. The standout performance is quite minor but nontheless critical: Michael Stuhbarg is exceptional as the bullied inventor Andy Hertzfield.

The biggest success is the genius move to film the picture on era-appropriate equipment. The three scenes were each filmed using totally different techniques: 1984 was captured on beautiful 16mm film, 1988 on 35mm film and 1998 on digital film. The evolution of technology is reflected in the format change and portrays each era in a manner that would have been impossible with digital post-production.

Whilst it isn’t a let down, it will be difficult to find a sustainable market for this film. It’s not a straight biopic, it isn’t hugely in favour of Apple, nor is it against it. It’s a struggle to watch and is unlikely to have people raving about its successes as they leave the cinema. 

It could be Danny Boyle’s Newton moment.

Steve Jobs is released in cinemas in the UK in November.

Further Viewing

If you enjoyed the film so much you’re interested in some further viewing, then check out the below videos. In the film you see the 40 minutes building up to the release of three products, but never get to see the keynotes themselves.

1984 – Original Macintosh home computer

The original keynote:

The Superbowl “1984” advert:

1988 – NeXT

The 1988 keynote speech isn’t available on YouTube, but this ABC news segment is a close fit:

1998 – iMac

The full video in all its glory: