“T2 Trainspotting” Lives Up To The Original Classic
Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” may have blared out in the opening moments of “Trainspotting,” but hardcore film fans audiences have been lusting for a follow-up ever since.
The 1996 classic, focusing on recent ex-heroin addict Mark “Rent Boy” Renton (Ewan McGregor) trying not to sink into the toxic lifestyle of his friends Daniel “Spud” McKenzie (Ewen Bremmer), Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (Johnny Lee Miller), and Francis “Franco” Begbie, is still to this day a rush of pure adrenaline. Putting priority on individual scenes and moments over the overarching plot (though it’s still present), no film sense has captured the same lighting-in-a-bottle mixture of debaucherous fun and heavy addiction drama.
Reuniting the entire cast of the original with director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”), “T2 Trainspotting” matches its subversion while also throwing a significant amount of heart into the mix.
Set a full 20 years after betraying his friends by taking all the money they stole in a heist and fleeing the country, Mark Renton returns to Edinburgh, Scotland to find that his friends are in less than ideal positions: Spud is jobless and estranged from his family, Sick Boy struggles to make ends meet by converting a bar he inherited into a front for a pornography business, and Franco toils away in jail.
Renton attempts to make amends with Sick Boy and Spud but falls victim to a lack of trust due to his abandonment of them. As he starts to rebuild these relationships, he can’t stop ruminating on his past, and matters just get worse when Franco breaks out of prison, bent on revenge.
Vitaly, the cast captures the same magic that made them so iconic back in ’96. McGregor’s Renton is just as likeable as ever, while the stubborness of Sick Boy, vulnerability of Spud, and untamed rage of Franco are all intact, though evolved.
The supporting cast are all great, as well. It’s fun to see Kelly Macdonald back, however brief it may be, and Anjela Nedyalkova does a wonderful job as Sick Boy’s girlfriend Veronika, although the spotlight is still very much on the central four.
These characters have grown up in the sense that a lot of them haven’t grown up. They’re all trapped in a time gone by, desperately trying to make the most of what they’ve got now while falling into all their old traps.
Boyle makes the passage of time the crux of his screenplay. What used to be endearing for these four lads now (intentionally) feels sad, as they’re now middle-aged men, not youthful upstarts.
A sequel could’ve easily coasted on recreating the original, but “T2” actually indicts over-reliance on nostalgia. Being trapped in the past forces all of our main characters into remaining stagnant; the real villain here is their past selves.
This makes “T2 Trainspotting” not only worthy as a follow-up, but also relevant. The film isn’t only concerned with such heaviness, however — it also wants to give the audience a good time.
Danny Boyle crafts several set-pieces with the same wild energy that made the original noteworthy.
A small heist at a unionist pub and a chase/fight between Renton and Begbie set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” are just two examples of the fun to be had here. Even the scattershot editing style/structure of the original is back to juice things up.
Speaking of juicing things up, the soundtrack provides a steady beat that gives each moment just a little extra panache. The visuals here also introduce a little anarchy into the proceedings that keeps even the slower moments engaging.
Everything comes together in a powerfully emotional and stylized finale that gives way to an epilogue that puts everything in perspective: “T2 Trainspotting” is less a sequel and more a logical extension of the original.
Danny Boyle and co. have crafted a wonderful companion piece to “Trainspotting” that is essential viewing for anyone who has seen the original, and actually retrospectively makes it better.
The mantra of the original was “Choose Life.” Well, if you’re looking for a sequel that’s a bit more challenging than most, choose “T2.”