T2 Trainspotting

Note: This review assumes you’ve seen Trainspotting from 1996 and mentions past plot developments that could be considered spoilers of the older film.

t_two_trainspotting_ver6STARS3.5Trainspotting was an unlikely hit when it was first released in 1996. It has remained on the IMDb Top 250 ever since. The film became an iconic standard of British pop culture in the 90s. It defined a generation much in the same way that Easy Rider or Saturday Night Fever did. The harrowing comedy-drama about heroin addicts put director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) on the map. Even the soundtrack was such a hit it prompted the release of a Vol. 2.

Trainspotting was based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh. Likewise, the sequel is very loosely based on Welsh’s 2002 follow-up Porno with elements lifted from the previous novel as well. With a nod to the way Terminator 2 is often informally referred, Danny Boyle has cheekily named his sequel T2 Trainspotting. Although the book was set 9 years after the events of the first, director Danny Boyle felt a longer wait was necessary which is why T2 is set 20 years later. The last time we saw Mark Renton he’d just swindled his pals out of £16,000 (minus the £4,000 he left to Spud). The plot is set in motion when Renton returns to Edinburgh after a 20-year absence living in Amsterdam. Sick Boy is running the Port Sunshine Pub, which he inherited from his aunt. He’s operating a videotape-then-blackmail scam with his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) too. His drug of choice is now cocaine. Spud is addicted to heroin. He’s lost his job. His long suffering wife (and son) have left him. He’s currently in the grips of depression. Franco Begbie is serving a 25-year prison sentence for murder. His violent disposition has not mellowed with age.

In theory, the very idea of a sequel to a modern classic like Trainspotting sounds like a bad idea, a desecration to the sublime ambiguousness of the ending in the original. Like doing a sequel to CasablancaTrainspotting captured lightning in a bottle. It zipped along with a comedic irreverence and exploited the inexperienced energy of a youthful cast. What made the production so magnetic was the assemblage of young talent in the form of a group of friendly reprobates played by Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd and Robert Carlyle. Kelly Macdonald was introduced in a brief role as a jailbait love interest.

The good news is T2 is solid fan service for aficionados of the first movie. If you’ve missed these characters to the point where you were dying to know what happened next, this story will not disappoint. To begin with, all the regulars are back. Well everyone but Kevin McKidd obviously since Tommy succumbed to HIV-related toxoplasmosis. Both director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge return also. They do a good job of honoring the memory of the previous incarnation. However, the youthful spirit of the original is gone. That’s intentional. The guys have significantly aged and the tone is more somber and world-weary. Die-hard devotees will be happy to see that the personalities of these individuals remain consistent though. That fluctuating temptation between trying to be a decent guy and scamming your friends for money is still at the heart of these lads.

T2 is an enjoyable production but principally aimed at idolizing the original for fans. The soundtrack includes remixed pieces of Underworld’s “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” as callbacks to the first feature. A few well-placed vignettes of old footage are strategically woven into the narrative. Additionally, much of the dialogue recalls the former film. Renton has a conversation with Veronika that references the famous “Choose Life” speech: “Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares…” The pacing is equally brisk and there are plenty of random vignettes that will make you laugh. One entertaining bit has Renton and Simon distracting the clientele of a Protestant pub with an anti-Catholic chant after robbing them blind. In another scene, Renton and Begbie discover the presence of the other in a most amusing way. The scene is perfectly shot. The irreverent humor is still is there, although it’s neither revolutionary nor necessary. T2 works but it needs the other to exist. It has been fashioned as an exceptionally well-made companion piece.


18 Responses to “T2 Trainspotting”

  1. Eric Robert Wilkinson Says:

    Did I lose my cinephile card if I say I loved this more than 1996 and made ne wanna revisit it


    • I watched the original the day before I saw this so it’s fresh in my mind. This needs the original story to exist. It wouldn’t be a fulfilling experience on its own so that makes it inferior. It’s still an enjoyable film though.


      • Eric Robert Wilkinson Says:

        I was simply more moved by this…maybe its the getting somewhat wiser with age…And I thought it had SOME of the youthful energy to counterpoint the mournful, regretful and amends-making older leads


  2. Primed to see this soon as I finally got to see the original for the first time last week. I wrote a piece about it for my monthly Blindspot selection if you care to check it out. I was so intimidated about writing about it, you tapped into the original here way better than I did. It’s one of those movies with such a reputation that writing about it *now* almost seems like a fruitless exercise. But I really really enjoyed it and now look forward to continuing the saga


    • Glad you finally saw the original.

      This competed for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1996 Oscars. (Sling Blade won the award). Best Picture that year was The English Patient and I have still yet to see that, although Trainspotting (which wasn’t even nominated) has aged as a much more beloved film.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My parents actually have The English Patient on DVD. I will have to give it a shot sometime, it doesn’t look like something I’d take to but it won Best Pic for a reason, so I’m curious.


      • Believe me, Trainspotting is a much better movie than The English Patient. It is just one of those Academy’s cliched choices. Although, Jerry Maguire would have been an excellent choice. And I believe it was the 1997 Oscars Mark


      • Maybe I should have said the 69th Academy Awards which were for films that came out in 1996. I realize the ceremony was held in 1997.


      • Wonder if they make it confusing for people to make mistakes. It makes no sense giving awards for previous year’s films the present year


  3. Excellent review, Mark


  4. Great write-up, Mark. We definitely seem to take the same positives from this. I was very pleasantly surprised by how good it was. It wasn’t the same film and it never could be but what Boyke delivered was something else that really complimented the original.


    • Agreed. I’m rather surprised this didn’t cause more of a stir in the U.S. The original has a fervid fan base here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad to hear the original has done well. I had no idea that this hadn’t went down with the same enthusiasm. Unsurprisingly, this went down a storm in Scotland. The cinemas were packed for weeks and it was difficult to get a seat. The scottish public had been waiting on this for a long time.


  5. Glad I saw the original before seeing this remake. This version was just as good. Music was just as exciting. Glad they got all the original characters back. 4 stars


  6. I agree that the idea of a sequel to Trainspotting seems like a terrible idea. You’re right that the movie really captured lightning in a bottle. Happy to hear that T2 honors the memory of the first one and that the personalities of the characters remain consistent even through the more somber, world-weary tone of this film. Hoping to catch it eventually, since I missed it in theaters.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: