Ah, Trainspotting. In 1996 Danny Boyle and co. stole the hearts of the British people, by bringing forth a film so close to the lives of many and driving home a disturbingly fascinating narrative of heroin addiction, camaraderie and betrayal. 20 years later, the boys are back…so what have they been up to for over 2 decades?
Renton. Now living in Amsterdam after stealing 16 grand from his supposed best buddies, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns home to Edinburgh after an unexpected health scare (must be the monumental usage of heroin in his teens, eh?) and is reunited with his former pals and lifestyle.
Spud. The last remaining group member still hooked on heroin and its catastrophic consequences, nothing much has changed for Daniel Murphy (Ewen Bremner). Things were looking up, he married Gail from the first film and even had a child, yet unsurprisingly his addiction cuts the potential for a happier life premature.
Sick Boy. Exchanging one addiction for another, Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) has found a new love for cocaine, and also a woman, Veronica; an ex-prostitute who assists Simon in his ‘line of work.’ He’s now an extortionist, ruining the lives of well-off individuals by staging dodgy sex acts between the said victim and Veronica, and ultimately using the footage for his own benefit. Again, not much has changed for the former aspiring pimp.
Begbie. After escaping prison with only 5 years to go of a 25-year sentence, Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) returns to modern civilisation and back to his wife and teenage son, who are equally as terrified of him as we are. Much like his younger self, Franco is unpredictable and borderline psychopathic, and it leads to some hilarious scenes throughout the film.
“You’re a tourist in your own youth.”Simon’s outburst to Renton when they follow the breadcrumbs to their past encapsulates the nostalgic feel to the film. Boyle feels the same hesitation and fear that fans first felt when the sequel was announced, but this undeniably benefits the film as a whole. This is very much a passion project for not only Boyle but also for the ensemble cast, who all return 21-years after the 1996 hit was released. This, in fact, is the most appealing aspect of Boyle’s sequel, the sense of faithfulness to the original is unparalleled in movies today. From Renton’s car-bonnet grin to the inclusion of brief cameos from some of the minor cast, T2 Trainspotting isn’t afraid to stay loyal to its predecessor. In fact, Boyle and editor Jon Harris, who surprisingly wasn’t at the helm of editing the first movie, handle the intertextuality and non-linearity of the first film extremely well. The inclusion of the boys in their youth, some scenes from the first movie and some not, is helpful in adding a layer of empathy over the overall nostalgic tone of the film.
With that being said, Boyle also isn’t afraid to send the film down different tracks. His sequel is much more light-hearted than his first, focusing instead on the consequences of retribution and retaliation rather than the grotesque and gritty underworld of substance abuse. Whilst the original Trainspotting had doses of humour scattered amongst its narrative, T2 very much uses comedy to drive the film forward, helped unequivocally by Robert Carlyle’s terrific return as Begbie. His character, one that Carlyle must cherish dearly, is the film’s primary source of levity and charisma, and is truly a phenomenal performance by the Scottish actor. Writers Irvine Welsh and John Hodge (the latter adapting the former’s novel) interestingly utilise pathos as a way of adding a human element to Begbie’s character, something that the first film failed to do, merely depicting Franco as an unpredictable and entirely non-sympathetic personality rather than a human being with real life emotions.
Whilst T2 Trainspotting is conclusively a film that won’t have the same resonating effect on the viewer that the first film had, it succeeds in being a film that grips the viewer by the collar and drags them into the world of substance abuse that we hope we never find ourselves in. It’s hilarious, sympathetic and wonderfully faithful to its predecessor, and undoubtedly adds itself to the short list of sequels that are on par with the original.
Choose a sequel worthy of stand-alone recognition.