By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn - You Can Find Several Other Reviews By Jack Dignan Here As Well
It’s 1996. The Olympics are being held, Mad Cow Disease has hit the UK, the Nintendo 64 is released, JK is only 24, and TRAINSPOTTING hits theatres all around the globe. Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, whose sequel served as a loose basis this time around for what is essentially an original screenplay, TRAINSPOTTING took a deep dive into the world of heroin addiction. It was director Danny Boyle’s second feature film, many justifiably describing it as his best. The film became a cinematic landmark, and now, after all these years, a sequel has arrived. With twenty years of hype and anticipation behind it, T2 TRAINSPOTTING has a lot to live up to...
Twenty years have passed since a young Renton (Ewan McGregor) ran off with 16,000 pounds, hoping to renew his life and leave his friends behind in the process. And they haven’t forgotten about it. Renton’s health is better than ever, but life, as expected, isn’t perfect. He finds himself alone, replacing illicit addictions with a forced addiction to running, but it’s not enough. For reasons unknown, Renton feels compelled to return home, touching down in Scotland where everything began. It’s here, fittingly, where everything will also come to an end.
Spud (Ewen Bremmer) has hit a low point in his life, still an addict and, due to recent events, suicidal too. When Renton comes along, everything changes. A spark arises in his life. He’s willing to go the extra mile to turn things around. The same cannot be said for Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), who now goes by Simon. “How have you been... for twenty years?” he asks Renton upon arrival, not too long before furiously beating him with a pool stick. Their relationship is complicated, to say the least, and as for Begbie (Robert Carlyle)... Well, things are even more complicated. He’s locked up in jail, desperate for a way out, and when hearing the news of Renton’s return, nobody is safe.
While I wasn’t around for the release of the first film, I have since caught up with what I’ve been missing out on. Anticipation for the follow-up was strong, and watching it for the first time felt like reuniting with a beloved friend. The mere idea of a sequel to TRAINSPOTTING feels preposterous. Where can they go? Why is it needed? Hesitancy and anxiousness towards it is an acceptable reaction, but rest assured, the film is an utter delight. It’s not necessarily a sequel that needs to exist, but it’s one we should all be thankful for.
Screenwriter John Hodge is the man given the daunting task of penning the sequel. Given that he also penned the first film, he’s clearly the right man for the job. Hodge delivers a much less impressive, not nearly as groundbreaking story compared to its predecessor, but one that’s about as good as a TRAINSPOTTING sequel can be. It simultaneously treads on new and familiar ground. A constant need to reminisce about what came before is integrated into the ploy, justifying it while also exploiting it. No, the iconic ‘Blue Slippy’ song doesn’t make it into the film, even with plenty of opportunities for it, but throwbacks there are a plenty, including a blink and you’ll miss it moment with a toilet in desperate need of a flush.
Once again taking the centre stage, as is the case with all of Boyle’s movies, is the film’s distinct visual style. Fluxed with a neon aesthetic, Boyle uses all his tricks and more. Simply from a visual storytelling perspective, T2 TRAINSPOTTING should be considered a masterpiece. It’s the editing that really steals the show, Boyle’s stunning cinematography aiding in the flow of the film, never allowing for a single dull moment. This film’s got plenty of problems, but the one thing it undoubtedly achieves is maintaining interest levels. It’s fast, stylistic and colourful, every frame used efficiently and in the utmost creative way.
At times, the film lingers on being style over substance, the plot thin but the characterization deep. That is, after all, one of this film’s saving graces. Little is achieved in the two-hour runtime, most of the characters overcoming their separate story arcs, however both Boyle and Hodge have a deep understanding of what makes these characters tick. They get them. T2 works as a layered look at their interactions, the consequences of actions, and who they are. It delves deep into their inner thought, portrayed visually and audibly. Sure, exposition is aplenty, several of the characters literally explaining their motivations, but it’s necessary. The story requires it. Boyle delivers it. It finds its place in the bigger picture.
For me, it was always Ewen Bremmer’s Spud who stole the show. I would protect my dear Spud at all costs, and the same follows through after having seen his triumphant return to the big screen. Bremmer, and the whole cast for that matter, bring exactly what they needed to bring to these characters. They’re more developed, evolved and mature versions of the characters we once saw, but every mannerism, character trait and personality detail has been retained. McGregor is just as great as ever, perhaps even the best performance in the film, and on top of that, Jonny Lee Miller also kills it as Simon.
T2 TRAINSPOTTING is a film that doesn’t need to exist. The story being told is one that I could live without having seen, but at the same time, I’m glad it does. If not for the style alone, this is a movie with the balls to do the unexpected, going the extra mile. It helms close on nostalgia, as is the case with many recent sequels, but it also propels these characters forward and wraps their stories up in a satisfying, jumbled way. Come Thursday, when you’re choosing what to see at the movies, don’t go see RINGS. Don’t go see FIST FIGHT. Choose T2 TRAINSPOTTING. Choose life.
3 1/2 Stars
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