T2: Trainspotting Review
Two decades later and the iconic group of backwards degenerates regroup for the sequel of the great British cult: Trainspotting. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) reappears in Edinburgh to rekindle with those he abandoned some twenty years ago but only gets so far with Begbie (Robert Carlyle), the crazed impulsive psychotic, hearing of Mark’s arrival after escaping from HMP Edinburgh.
Trainspotting 2 Filmwork Cover
With high hopes and great potential, it’s a true shame that Danny Boyle’s (Director) Trainspotting 2 never left the shadow of its predecessor. It’s unremitting ambience of nostalgia and persistent referencing to Trainspotting simply make you miss the first film, instead of awakening and enthusing the spark as it should have.
Although preserving the 90s ‘Cool Britannia’ oeuvre that persevered in T1, the edge just isn’t there – ‘Boyling’ down to a simply feeble storyline. Director Danny Boyle, however, does demonstrate cinematic spark – through a variety of shots and unique montages we catch a glimpse into what could’ve been.
We start with Renton on a treadmill – no longer does he chase the rush of heroin, instead it is the high of fitness, replacing injections with sprints, and euphoria with endorphins. Soon after he falls flat on his face from an apparent heart attack – imperceptibly implementing a central theme for the film; old age, along with all its existential crises and hardships.
Sick-boy, now Simon (Jonny Lee Miller), has taken to blackmailing for money, using his ‘girlfriend’/business partner Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) and a hidden camera as a means of extorting the wealthy men that come to visit her. He has replaced his heroin habit with Cocaine – and his personality has developed accordingly.
Begbie (Robert Carlyle), and his drive to have his revenge on Renton are what the plot functions on, but Begbie is a shadow of his former self, and what once was a reckless almost likeable hell raiser, is now just a bitter old men seething over the £4000 that Renton stole those many years ago. His character has lost his oomph and is now inseparable from the many other bitter old men that we have all seen before.
Finally, there is Spud (Ewen Bremner), Spud, Spud, Spud… we instantly succumb to his wretched innocence and sad existence. We give him our undivided empathy and pity the moment we lay eyes on him. Still hooked on Heroine, we first get a proper look at him in his attempted suicide. With no family and no friends but the needle he is so familiar with – from the beginning we are routeing for him. And we are successful with this, as he ends using writing as a means of expressing himself.
The main problem with the film is it never leaves the ground, we never really get into the nuts and bolts of the characters, or the storyline. It will forever be recognised as the ‘alright’ sequel to its predecessor and in no way ascertained its own individuality, and this gutted me.
“Choose Life”, the 90s anti-drug slogan is introduced during a dinner between Renton and Veronika, and it is one all trainspotting cult fans will recognise from the first film. Renton, now a middle-aged failed revolutionary and no longer the energetic drugged-up youth he once was has adapted his backwards bluster appropriately – what once was “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television.” Is now “Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares … Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hours contract, choose a two-hour journey to work, and choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen.”
I’ll admit, it gathered momentum, for a split second I felt like the movie was about to leave the ground – but after the rant had finished, after you had left your daze where you were happily sitting in the land of Trainspotting, where you had succumbed to the charm of Renton and had fallen victim to your own nostalgia, you wake up. You get angry. You question John Hodge’s (screenplay writer) life decisions and curse him for this adaptation. And the reason why? The rant was, much like the film, and much like Begbie, a shadow of its former self.
Despite my putting T2 on blast, the film had its moments. It maintained the charm of the first, and by all means succeeded in its efforts to be a black comedy/thriller, cleverly demonstrating how growing up includes a whole load of regret, pain, and dismay. The characters aged well, and their reunion was as delightful as I anticipated. It was a test to detach my attachments to Trainspotting – and the cast themselves – but by doing so, I realised the story line was the fatal flaw for the film.
It seemed a case of putting together what they could, and there was a prolonging sensation of attempting to satisfy the audience, playing their cult fan base with their nostalgia and melancholy. This made the film feel forced, and accordingly, it lost its originality and ever so slightly tainted the decadent Trainspotting.
If you haven’t seen ‘Trainspotting’, do not expect much from the film, as a story it lacks vigour and drags ever so slightly. If you have seen Trainspotting, however, despite all its flaws, you will feel that raw hard-hitting energy, and you will leave fulfilled with nostalgia and nihilism.