Directed By: Danny Boyle Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle Film Review by Jack Bottomley
20 years is a long time. In 20 years those friends that had their life ahead of them can lose everything, or those who seemed in a rut can find themselves living their dream. However with the passing years, be they good or bad, we are all forced to acknowledge many things in life, from the glory days gone by to the future ahead. Enter T2 (no, not that one), which very much focuses on such ideas, as director Danny Boyle re-visits his most landmark accomplishment, in his Irvine Welsh novel adaptation Trainspotting. Back in 1996 Boyle was already showing early promise as a director but with Trainspotting he created a visionary work that not only unflinchingly told a story of drug addiction but of economic turmoil in Scotland and of a disillusioned generation of youth.
It is little wonder that so many people connected with this film back on release but in many ways the film’s formation as a generational milestone in cinema over the years has resulted in immense hype for this long time coming follow-up. Luckily for us, Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge have created a film that encourages audiences to re-visit these characters and this world. Adapted from Welsh’s novel “Porno”, this second film sees Mark "Rent Boy" Renton (Ewan McGregor) return to Scotland and soon after, he finds himself re-uniting with old friends Daniel "Spud" Murphy (Ewen Bremner) and Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), after taking the money and running 20 years ago. But, as they all find, the years may have flown by but the connection is still there, as the three soon start a shady business venture, all while the vengeful and borderline psychotic Francis "Franco" Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has escaped from prison.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for T2 Trainspotting above.
While the argument can be made that Trainspotting did not need a sequel (and frankly, it didn’t), this writer is thoroughly happy the gang made one and it does not disappoint. Imbued with heaps of ‘90s nostalgia and a lot of call backs to the now iconic original, this is indeed a film that lives in the past but considering the theme of the movie, this is wholly appropriate. Looking at how age brings with it the necessity to dwell on what you consider “the glory days” of youth, T2 Trainspotting shows how things change while, for some, they inevitably remain the same. This is less a film about drugs (although they obviously feature) and more about life.
From the speaker-punching soundtrack to the hyper-visual style, Boyle retains ingredients that made the original a subversive standout, and actually mages to make scenes gritty in spite of the digital advancements to movies that make creating a grubby scene rather difficult nowadays. However, what T2 does lack is the same punch as its predecessor. Yes, it carries some affecting moments of its own but does not quite have the same no holds barred gut-punching truth and tragedy that made the first film linger so long in the mind. Not to mention the fact that the movie is potentially divisive due to its differences to the first movie in many ways (its finale alone shows how Boyle has given the film more action in many ways).
That being said, at no point do you ever get the impression that they are trying to outdo the original, instead the team seems to be adding to it and speaking of the team, the performances are great. McGregor brings a real façade of success as Renton, which soon crumbles to reveal a rather less glowing reality to the character, and Bremner is given a great little arc of ambition in this film as Murphy, that builds on the more sympathetic traits of the character established last time. However Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle steal the show. Miller is perfectly unbalanced emotionally as Williamson, who is both still angered by his mate’s betrayal and yet still connected to his long time friend. While Carlyle once again excels as the crazed Begbie and he goes at the script like a Hyena on scraps!
Overall, this is just a really enjoyable piece of work that connects emotionally at times in its own right and offers more funny sequences than a more gravitas-laden original. True, you get the feeling the film won’t go on to have the same imprint culturally as the first but those were big shoes to fill to be honest. T2 Trainspotting is frantic, enjoyable and unexpected.