T2 Trainspotting. 2017
Directed by Danny Boyle.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Anjela Nedyalkova, James Cosmo, Irvine Welsh, Eileen Nicholas, Kevin McKidd, and Kelly Macdonald.
After 20 years abroad, Mark Renton returns to Scotland and reunites with his old friends Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie.
Does the world of cinema need a sequel to Trainspotting? Maybe, maybe not; it’s not something worth getting caught up in or debating over because at the end of the day, Academy-Award-winning director Danny Boyle’s (who also helmed the original masterpiece based off of the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, and has an ever-growing impressive resume of classic films consisting of Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours to name a few) 20 years later window into the lives of these addiction fueled, irresistibly watchable characters is another hyperactively directed, stylish, and hypnotic romp through the Scottish junkie lifestyle.
Look, T2 Trainspotting (loosely based on the novel’s sequel titled Porno) was never going to match the original, let alone surpass it, but a good film is a good film. Catching up with these highly irresponsible, demented nut cases (save for Ewan McGregor returning as Mark, now married with a family and still free from the destructive wrath of heroin) is akin to opening up your Facebook feed and scrolling through a nonsense infested wall occasionally peppered with a childhood friend that you don’t really keep contact with, going on and on about the good old days and more simpler times. Chances are, this hypothetical person is also perpetually in a reflective state of mind as a coping mechanism for deflecting how disappointed they are with their own present, and how un-enthused they are regarding the future. It’s sad, resonates, is sometimes hilarious, but most importantly, probably makes you say to yourself “thank God I’m not this person”
It’s easy to take notice of this and throw shade at T2 Trainspotting for retreading old ground, but it’s also a testament to the tried-and-true adage of “do people ever really change or kick their bad habits”. Take Spud (played by a returning Ewen Bremner) into consideration, who has a wonderful family at the beginning of the film that we learn he is gradually losing due to his never-ending struggle with drugs. Credit the performance and writing, as Spud truly is a loveable buffoon worth pitying and feeling sympathetic over, but what’s most surprising and welcome is that he actually has the most emotionally powerful character arc of the sequel. T2 Trainspotting makes the case that addicts are addicts and always will be, so they must channel that lust into a different passion, which is brilliantly realized by the end of the film.
As to be expected, Danny Boyle expresses all the film’s deeper meanings and metaphors through slick direction and a palpable sense of energy. Typically, it’s dreaded when a decade later follow-up implements modern-day technology, but here they are fused in a way that fits the stylish aesthetics found in the original (never thought I would enjoy Snapchat animal filters in a movie). There’s also more creative editing (especially during an attempted suicide), and a go-for-broke attempt at delivering the kind of unforgettable sequences founded on dark humor and brutally painful realities that launched the original into iconic status. It’s also especially refreshing that the film doesn’t really awkwardly force upon knowledge of the original for those that have not seen it. There is roughly one minute of footage from the first film here, but it’s all naturally edited in as conversations about the past crop up. With that said, T2 Trainspotting definitely aims high for nostalgia, which will play differently for various people.
Of course, there can’t be a sequel to Trainspotting without a catchy soundtrack full of British pop and classic rock. The energy from licensed music enhances the mood and hallucinogenic atmosphere of the experience, so thankfully T2 Trainspotting serves up a plethora of songs you’ll want to add to your rotation. Iggy Pop, Queen, Underworld, and my personal favorite discovery from the film, Wolf Alice and their beautifully melancholic piece titled Silk, which also sort of doubles as an anthem for the movie. Naturally, the songs are also skillfully utilized (Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is inserted during a ridiculous action scene that just works on every level); Danny Boyle has certainly given a soundtrack that can compare to the original.
However, what doesn’t really work for T2 Trainspotting is a more conventional core narrative that functions as Sick Boy’s revenge film (though they still have gripping moments and chemistry together). The sequel doesn’t tarnish the legacy of the original classic at all, but there’s definitely a sensation that some events are built just to service the plot and justify the film’s existence, while some character motivations don’t really feel believable. Yes, Begbie is a raging, psychopathic lunatic, but would he really belittle his son for going to college, instead attempting to reel him into a life of crime? And surely the police would find him after escaping. It’s a tough sell, and most of the characters do feel slightly less defined, with the exception of Spud who is definitely the heart and soul of this sequel.
So, should we do T3 Trainspotting in 20 years? If the movie Gods can give us garbage Transformers movie after garbage Transformers movie, what is the harm in making sequels that are good, regardless of if the story feels like it needs expanding or not? Judge movies based on their own merits, of which T2 Trainspotting is a rousing success that is certainly in tune with why the original caught on to the point where it is considered essential viewing for any cinephile. Time will tell how the follow-up holds up, but it’s certainly a must-see film for 2017.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★