Trainspotting sequel a nostaligic exercise
Did we need a T2? Maybe not, but it’s still a fun trip.
By Thomas Simpson
Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is a counter culture cult classic that catapulted the director’ career as well as those of the main cast. Dripping in black humor, the film was distressing and life affirming as we followed the lives of a group or friends as they overcame drug addiction, prison and the desire to screw each other over.
Talk of a sequel rumbled on through the years, fuelled by original author Irvine Welsh penning his own follow-up titled Porno. A very public falling out between McGregor and Boyle prevented fans from seeing what happened next in the lives of Renton (Ewan McGregor), Begbie (Robert Carlyle), Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and Spud (Ewan Bremner). Time is a great healer, and two decades later the band is back together for T2 Trainspotting.
Much has changed but more remains the same. Renton returns to Edinburgh after living in self-imposed exile while Sick Boy is still scheming on how to get rich quick. Spud can’t seem to catch a break and Begbie is locked up in prison, albeit not for long. Due to his actions last time, Renton has become a pariah amongst his friends but only one of them is thirsty for his blood.
T2 Trainspotting is a wonderful nostalgia trip that is also beautifully refreshing for a sequel, let alone one that’s taken over 20 years to make. It’s no mere rehash of the first one; Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge aren’t interested in telling the same story even if it does feel familiar at times. The past and present are expertly woven to create a bridge between the two films that ensures the importance of continuity and familiarity. It isn’t just the cast and characters that have aged, audiences have too and Boyle is careful not to exclude fans that were there on the first journey with those just getting on board.
The first Trainspotting had a linear path towards redemption; while T2 might seem disjointed, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions that evens out toward the third act. There’s a humanity that breaks through the script and shines in every character, even Begbie. Begbie is a psychotic lunatic but Carlyle’s portrayal of him is so brilliant you can’t help but like such a detestable character. He’s out for revenge but also has his own son to worry about showing that not everything in T2 is black and white.
T2 lacks the same intoxicating thrills of its predecessor. Instead it offers a warm, often hilarious and at times shocking, embrace. The characters are old friends who you’re meeting for one last round, unbeknownst to any of you if you’ll ever see each other again. If this is how things are left, then I’m sure that’ll be just fine with everyone.
Thomas is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.