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T2: Trainspotting – Movie Review

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T2: Trainspotting – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Trainspotting was a quintessential film for many young people during the 1990s and even entering into the new millennium. Danny Boyle directed this story of a group of heroin addicts with a lot of energy and despite its central message, never turned it into a PSA. This group of burn-outs resonated with many, even those who had never touched a drug in their lives. Creating a sequel twenty years later could have been a sad reunion and only alienated the audience who had connected with these ruffians. Thankfully, T2: Trainspotting succeeds at being a fitting follow-up and is a natural progression for these characters. They are definitely older, but Boyle does not merely repeat the same beats. Even the drug usage has dropped to the point it’s not a focal point this time around.

How much the quartet of Trainspotting has matured will be up for debate, but they are experiencing new problems here. Fittingly, the psychopathic Begbie is the only one with a preference for reliving the “good, old days.” Ewan McGregor’s Renton just wants to move on and we root for him to succeed at that goal. He is continually frustrated at his place in life, even though there are far less hallucinations happening to him now. How do you settle old scores, while also keeping your friends? He grapples with that through the course of the film and John Hodge’s screenplay handles these themes profoundly. A sequence in which Renton launches into a speech about “choosing life” allows the filmmakers to let their feelings out in the open. It’s easy to assume Boyle and Hodge relate to Renton the most.

Boyle’s directorial style has remained largely unchanged since he filmed Trainspotting, so it’s little surprise he has kept the look of the predecessor intact in the sequel. When it throws in archival footage of the first film, it feels natural and a seamless part of the film. There are a lot more fisticuffs this go around and Boyle directs the fight scenes with the proper level of energy and humour, yet still keeping the stakes intact. Every single step these characters take is what would likely happen to them twenty years since the events of Trainspotting with Begbie being the most lost in our modern world.

The callbacks to the previous film don’t feel cutesy or unnecessary. Kelly Macdonald’s rise in fame since Trainspotting’s release, of course, leads to a cameo appearance in the sequel. However, it’s a comical scene that’s never gratuitous and it’s great to see her conversing with Ewan McGregor again. Comedic set pieces, like this one, enrich the characters wonderfully with the funniest moment coming from Renton and Begbie finally meeting again. The filmmakers remember that what most endeared us to Trainspotting were not the trippy drug scenes, but the characters interacting with one another. That the dialogue and performances still click is a testament to how much twenty years was the right amount of time to wait before producing this sequel.

T2: Trainspotting is like pleasantly reconnecting with old friends, even if some might have grown rowdier in the years since. The script is sharp and properly develops this gang of Scots and does not merely rely on repeating the same plot points. When Renton is hit by a car, it fits into this new journey for him, rather than serving as an obvious call back. It is jarring at one point to see Renton and Sick Boy shooting up heroin, because drugs are mostly absent during much of the runtime. It goes to show that Boyle did not merely want to tap into the same territory, an easy route for many years-later sequels. This becomes a worthy continuation and deserves to sit alongside its iconic predecessor.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison