Movie Reviews: Hacksaw Ridge, Sing, T2: Trainspotting

Nostalgia, as they say, ain’t what it used to be. Two decades on from the incendiary Trainspotting (1996), T2: Trainspotting (18s) finds ex-junkies Mark (Ewan McGregor), Sickboy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) converging again on Edinburgh’s mean streets.
Movie Reviews: Hacksaw Ridge, Sing, T2: Trainspotting

Mark wants to make good on his betrayal of his friends; Sickboy wants to open a brothel; Spud is desperate to escape his desperately lonely life; and Begbie, in prison, still harbours a murderous hatred.

Adapted by John Hodge from Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno, and directed by Danny Boyle, T2 is decidedly more ambitious than most sequels aspire to.

On one level it’s a straightforward caper, as Mark and Sickboy join forces to scam the powers-that-be out of enough cash to get their brothel up and running, all the while terrified that Begbie, having escaped from prison, will finally track down Mark, and there’s plenty of black humour to be mined from the ham-fisted efforts of these most hapless of wannabe criminals.

More interesting, however, is the story’s commentary on our obsession with nostalgia, as Danny Boyle inserts slivers of footage from the original film to contrast that story’s audacious energy and raw charm with the more cynical, worldly-wise characters of T2.

‘We’re tourists in our own youth,’ Sickboy tells Mark (and by extension the audience), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: as the older (and a tiny bit wiser) Spud (in a show-stealing turn from Ewen Bremner) reminisces about the characters’ younger selves, he begins writing the stories that will become the original ‘Trainspotting’ novel.

You don’t catch lightning in a bottle twice, and T2: Trainspotting lacks the original’s ground-breaking quality; that said, it’s hugely enjoyable, and a more thought-provoking film than might have resulted had they simply tried to repeat the trick.

Hacksaw Ridge (16s) tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who volunteered as a US Army medic during WWII despite being a conscientious objector.

Derided as a coward during basic training, Desmond is hounded by Sgt Howell (Vince Vaughn) and persecuted by his peers; determined to do his patriotic duty, however, Desmond finally earns the right to ‘run into the hellfire of war without a single weapon to protect him’.

That hellfire finally arrives on Hacksaw Ridge on the island of Okinawa, when Desmond delivers a sustained act of jaw-droppingly selfless courage that would be written off as the worst of Hollywood hokum if it weren’t based on a true story.

Written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight, and directed by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is a powerful tale in many respects.

Desmond Doss’s story makes for a highly unusual war film, offering as it does compelling contrary arguments for refusing to kill and also the necessity, in war, of doing so, and Andrew Garfield is in superb form as the avuncular backwoods boy sustained by a simple religious faith as he goes into battle, first with the US Army for the right to serve his country, and then against the Japanese who defend their homeland with ferocious savagery.

It’s also a film that has its cake and devours it: Desmond’s conscience is such that he cannot allow himself to so much as handle a weapon, let alone fire it, but Mel Gibson’s depiction of the brutal battle scenes on Okinawa is so vividly rendered that they outstrip the intensity of Saving Private Ryan.

The climax might have been better served by unadorned fact than the religious imagery Gibson layers on, but otherwise Hacksaw Ridge is an extraordinarily affecting war movie.

Sing (G) opens with down-on-his-luck koala bear impresario Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) attempting to save his theatre by launching a talent competition, a modest ambition that quickly spirals out of control and into the realms of enjoyable farce as a motley crew of animals including Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), Ash (Scarlett Johansson), Mike (Seth McFarlane) and Eddie (John C Reilly) compete for the huge cash prize Buster accidentally advertises.

Written by Garth Jennings, who co-directs with Christophe Lourdelet, Sing is from the same studio responsible for last year’s The Secret Life of Pets, and offers a similar blend of brash humour, slapstick, and punchlines derived from animals aping human characteristics.

The story may well be a rip-off a number of ‘Muppet Show’ plot-lines (and the makers duly acknowledge the debt with a neat in-joke), but the A-list cast has terrific fun with their characters, particularly during the early audition stages, with Matthew McConaughey stealing the show as the deludedly optimistic koala.

All told, it’s an animated tale a perfectly pitched at the younger audience and packed with X-factor fun.

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