Published on January 23rd, 2017 | by Allan Brown2
T2 Trainspotting Review
Running Time: 117 minutes
Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: John Hodge (screenplay), Irvine Welsh (novel)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Anjela Nedyalkova, Shirley Henderson, Kelly Macdonald, Irvine Welsh
“Nostalgia. That’s why you’re here. You’re a tourist in your own youth.”
Says; Simon Sick Boy Williamson to Mark Renton, in a poignant moment from T2 Trainspotting that perfectly encapsulates the very essence of director Danny Boyle’s long awaited sequel. This one line of dialogue (from John Hodge, who returns as screenwriter), not only symbolises one of the main themes in the film, but also speaks true of its audience, who will now be in their late thirties and forties.
Back in 1996, some twenty-one years ago, Trainspotting not only defined a generation, but was the epitome of cool Britannia. The film was full of hyper visuals, stylistic flare, punchy dialogue and a grit that was rarely seen in film at the time. And with its middle finger firmly up to the establishment – and banging soundtrack turned up to full volume, it lit a rocket under the British film industry, reigniting passion and inspiring a new wave of indie filmmakers.
So with such a historic legacy to follow, could a sequel ever match the cultural impact Trainspotting had, and does it even to? For most, the answer would be no. But it is also important that a sequel of this magnitude does not tarnish the legacy of the original.
“Hello Mark. So what have you been up to…for 20 years?”
Good question. Well, if you cast your mind back to the closing moments in Trainspotting. You’ll remember Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) choosing life – albeit, right after he done his mates over for the tidy sum of £16000. Fast Forward 20 years and where are they now? Well, the manic sociopath Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is sitting on a 20+ year jail sentence in HMP Edinburgh for murder. Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller) is still exploiting whoever he can. His usual scams include; extortion, small scale cannabis farming and a brothel enterprise on the first floor of his newly inherited pub; Port Sunshine. Scruffy Daniel ‘Spud’ Murphy (Ewen Bremner), still with an unquenchable heart of gold, struggles on with heroin addiction, “the only friend who didn’t leave me” having lost both his wife and child in the process. Mark Renton, who did indeed choose life, made a hop, skip and a jump over to old Amsterdam to start a fresh life, away from the temptation and pitfalls that surely awaited him in Edinburgh.
Despite the different paths our foursome now find themselves on, they all share one thing in common; their past and that lingering memory of betrayal.
The long and short of it is: T2 Trainspotting is less punchy and less daring than its predecessor. Its more mainstream in its nature and perhaps – at times, feels more like a homage, or a ‘where are they now’ feature, than a film in its own right. Littered throughout its entirety, are call-backs and nods to the original. Some are genuinely moving (spud sees a security guard chasing a shoplifter down ‘Calton Road’, drawing memories of that iconic opening scene from T1), some are menacing (Begbie recounting violent acts of the past – “That lassie got glassed, and no cunt leaves here till we find out what cunt did it” as a petrified Spud looks on), and some unfortunately feel rather crowbarred in, like many of the cameos. As previously stated, nostalgia is a strong thread here. The army of fans who have waited twenty one years for a sequel, will want and expect these nods to the original, and Boyle knows this. The issue is, T2 is sometimes so preoccupied with paying fan service, that it forgets to breathe enough life into this story its trying to tell.
There are other weaknesses which mainly lie in the editing. Some narrative strands don’t seem to go anywhere significant or interesting, and some pivotal players to the narrative (Mr Doyle and Diane) pop up, only to disappear again without mention. These scenes that are littered throughout, often feeling cobbled together from strands of an idea that was later chopped down at the final edit. And as a result, many feel rather half-hearted in their conviction.
But even with its few missteps T2 Trainspotting makes, Danny Boyle and company have managed to bring a sequel that is every bit as funny – perhaps even more so, as energetic, and as slick, as its significant other. Edinburgh is beautifully captured in all its glory, and plays as much a character in the story as its cast, thanks to the skilled eye of award winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. As for our motely crew of misfits; McGregor, Carlyle, Bremner and Miller are on fire, and all sink back into their respective roles so seamlessly, you’d think it was only yesterday the original was shot – aside from a few grey hairs and an extra wrinkle or two. The style and visual tempo of the film, along with its quick cuts, are also all here and accounted for. The dialogue is as sharp and as punchy as before, and the soundtrack – which they have again NAILED, is once again the beating heart of the film.
In the writing, T2 is perhaps more introspective, more thought provoking and more tragic – in some ways, than T1 ever was. Its characters have aged significantly since we last saw them, and with those years; pain, hardship, bitterness and a feeling of trying to find their place in a world that has clearly moved on without them, haunts every frame.
Summary: Not as hard hitting as its predecessor and perhaps more mainstream in its nature. But none the less, T2 is a glorious success and fitting sequel to such an iconic cinematic gem. It’s vulgar, It’s rebellious, It’s hilarious, It’s emotional, and it’s well worth your time. Choose T2 this January