Sunday 25 February 2018

Renton makes return to scene of the crime

* T2 Trainspotting (18, 117mins), 4 Stars
* Denial (12A, 110mins), 3 Stars
* Sing (G, 107mins), 3 Stars

Choosing life: Renton and Spud are reunited in T2 Trainspotting
Choosing life: Renton and Spud are reunited in T2 Trainspotting

Paul Whitington

For an entire generation, the movie Trainspotting was a cultural talisman, a cinematic rite of passage, a way of describing their contempt for the adult world. While not a masterpiece exactly, it had compelling energy, an inspired soundtrack, and perfectly caught the carefree, pre-9/11, mid-90s zeitgeist. Based on a novel by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting catalogued the adventures of a group of daredevil Edinburgh junkies, made a star of Ewan McGregor, and launched Danny Boyle's stellar directing career. In a sense, it could hardly be improved upon, so why make a sequel?

Because of those unforgettable characters, perhaps, who seemed so real you felt you almost knew them and made you wonder what had happened next. T2 opens 20 years later, and the biggest surprise is that everyone's still alive. At the end of the original film Mark Renton (McGregor) double-crossed his mates, absconded with £16,000 and has been living in Amsterdam ever since. But now he comes back, ostensibly to make amends with his friends Daniel 'Spud' Murphy (Ewen Bremner) and Simon 'Sick Boy' Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), but also bound, it seems, on a nostalgic search for his lost youth.

When they first meet, Renton and Simon end up knocking seven bells out of each other, but subsequently declare an uneasy truce to pursue Simon's ill-advised plan to open a brothel. A newly sober Spud, meanwhile, has discovered an unlikely talent for writing. But unfortunately for all concerned, incorrigible psycho Francis 'Franco' Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has chosen this moment to break out of jail.

T2 might so easily have been a watered-down comic caper and an insult to its predecessor, but Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge bring a streak of wistful melancholy to Irvine Welsh's original story: even junkies, it seems, look back fondly on their dysfunctional youths.

Boyle's visual storytelling is fluent and imaginative, and the performances are excellent.

Mick Jackson's very entertaining but ever so slightly hammy drama Denial is based on an extraordinary law suit that put the Holocaust itself on trial.

In 1996, American academic Deborah Lipstadt was sued for libel by the British historian David Irving, who objected to her having called him a Holocaust denier in one of her books. This sensitivity seemed odd given that Irving, who'd once been considered a serious historian, had claimed Hitler never approved or was even aware of the mass extermination of Jews, and subsequently denied the existence of the gas chambers altogether.

But the trial went ahead, and Lipstadt (played here by Rachel Weisz) travelled to London to be confronted in court by her accuser. Timothy Spall is Irving, and while it might be stretching things to say he plays him for laughs, his courtroom appearances are overripe, and undeniably comic. Then again, if a character is inherently absurd it's hard for an actor to lend him any dignity. A strong supporting cast includes Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott. Jackson tells his story well, but there were times when I found myself wondering if I should be enjoying myself quite so much given Denial's subject matter.

Sing, on the other hand, can be enjoyed guilt-free: it's a light and fluffy animated fantasy from the folk who brought us Minions. Buster Moon (a koala bear, but don't hold that against him) is the owner of a ramshackle theatre that seems on the point of closing when he decides to stage a talent contest. When his bumbling secretary (a lizard, but nobody's perfect) accidentally inflates the prize fee, a long line of variously talented animals forms outside the theatre.

While no masterpiece, Sing is a good deal of fun: Matthew McConaughey heads up a fine voice cast, and some of the singing is wonderful.

Irish Independent

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