It feels like ages ago, but back in 1996 an unknown filmmaker named Danny Boyle made his mark on the industry by shaping an entire generation with the revolutionary heroin-addiction drama, Trainspotting. Two decades have passed and Boyle has emerged as one of Hollywood's elite directors thanks to the overwhelming success of films like Best Picture Winner Slumdog Millionaire, for which Boyle won a Directing Oscar, and Best Picture Nominee 127 Hours. So what's left for a man who's clearly reached the pinnacle of his profession? How about a return to his roots with the wildly anticipated sequel, T2 Trainspotting. As this year's official SXSW "secret screening" selection, unsuspecting audiences were given a wonderful treat.
Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the streets of Edinburgh 20 years after ripping off his best friend Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) by running away with their 16,000-pound score following a successful drug deal. Renton hopes to make things right with his friend and ultimately agrees to help Simon with a new money-making scheme. They bring Spud (Ewen Bremner) on board to help with the plan, all while trying to avoid the craziness of Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who's back on the streets after escaping from prison.
There is so much to enjoy about Danny Boyle's long-awaited return to the boys from Edinburgh, but it all begins and ends with his direction. Boyle's sharp-style continues to impress as he plays with elements of time both visually and physically. We bear witness to decades of wear and tear to these former kings of the street, but their sense of desperation is as strong as it's ever been. Ewan McGregor and company jump back into their roles without ever missing a beat, infusing a nostalgic energy that eases the audience into the beautifully chaotic world of Trainspotting. Clever writing also resurfaces throughout the work, transforming timely jokes into necessary plot points, all of which remind us of John Hodge's exceptional ability to craft a story. Yet, perhaps the most fascinating element to T2 is how well the film plays as both a stand alone effort, and not just a continuation of the 1996 saga. But beyond all of the double-crossing and redemption that unravels throughout the film, Danny Boyle shows us all how a special kind of dedication and a distinct love for the characters are essential pieces to making any sequel a successful one.
Stars: 3 stars out of 4
With enormous crowds swirling all over Austin, Texas, sometimes it's to your benefit to pass up a more anticipated screening at SXSW for a smaller, more intimate, one. And after catching Robert Mockler's first credited feature, Like Me, I was grateful for taking a shot on this unknown title. Blending together elements of experimental filmmaking with a traditional narrative core, Mockler stands out against the other directorial debuts at this year's SXSW festival.
The film opens with a lonely teenage sociopath named Kiya (Addison Timlin) holding up a drive-thru market clerk and broadcasting the entire robbery live on her social media feed. From there she continues on a crime spree that she uses to connect with her followers online, and results in the kidnapping of Marshall (Larry Fessenden), a pedophile hotel owner she lures into captivity. Kiya begins to interact with Marshall more and more and the human connection may or may not be enough to stop her villainous behavior.
Robert Mockler's thriller unfolds in a David Lynch-like manner, intense from the get-go and increasingly creepy as the story progresses. Like Me solidifies Mockler's voice and vision as a progressive filmmaker, and someone I plan to keep on my radar in the future. While some may refute the narrative structure of the film, claiming Mockler's obsession with style over substance as a detriment to the finished product, I'd combat those claims by addressing the story's phenomenal ability to develop its characters. It's no easy feat to turn an admitted pedophile such as Marshall's character into a sympathetic figure. Yet, Like Me plays along to an unpredictable beat with a unique approach to story-telling that's both unconventional and effective. Addison Timlin delivers a spellbinding lead performance that's immaculately counter-balanced by her co-star, Larry Fessenden. Like Me appeals to all the senses and propels director Robert Mockler to the forefront of the indie scene by making one of the most memorable impressions at this year's SXSW festival.
Stars: 3 stars out of 4