Sequels are always a toss-up. When said sequel hits theatres two decades after the original film, it’s even more of a gamble for the filmmakers. Thank God for niche audiences and die-hard fans—willing to support their favorite franchises, regardless of the situation.
I first saw Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) in college, and I loved it. It was dark, yet an oddly-comic exposé on the drug epidemic of the ‘90s (see my first Weekly from this year, talking about that film). When I heard that the sequel was happening—with all the same cast and main crew—I was psyched. Still am.
T2 Trainspotting is well-done and actually makes sense and ties up loose ends from the first film. We’re really able to see what 20 years has done to these four main characters, whichever direction life took them in that time. It’s got a relatively-loose plot, but that’s fine—I didn’t come looking for a stellar story, I came to see my guys: Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. The actors—Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle (respectively)—seemed like they had a real fun time coming back to the story and their characters for this second go-round, and it showed in their performances. All this is helped, no doubt, by Danny Boyle’s artistic, masterful direction on-set. The original Trainspotting was his second major film; this franchise is his baby—part of what helped him get to where he is today. Someone else, had they come onboard for the sequel, would’ve gotten it wrong. Some real thought was put into this project, and the seamlessness of the transition through two decades really puts a period on that.
There are more laughs and overall levity in this film than the original, and I liked that. It’s still the same loveable group of losers in the same situation they were in before…but they’ve done some growing-up. Whether that’s forced, like Begbie during his time in prison, or Renton’s choice to move away from toxic Edinburgh, it’s carved believable, relatable paths for their respective arcs to follow. I might check out the book(s) these films are based on—which, fun twist, has something to do with the ending of this second film.
The cinematography and Scottish scenery—both urban and rural—are gorgeous, and the spicy soundtrack just accentuates the new-age feeling of the film. This is a different Edinburgh than what Renton left behind, and we see that in his welcome-back montage in the beginning. The filmmakers pay special attention to all the street cameras everywhere, as well, which lends to his inherent paranoia of returning home. When we learn that everything hasn’t been so grand—even for him, over the past 20 years—after all, we become grounded again in that “vicious cycle” motif of the first film. It’s nostalgia, and it’s grand.
As far as sequels are concerned, T2 is a welcome return to beloved characters and a cynical cinematic experience that really holds the proverbial mirror up to society. If a third film becomes a possibility in the near future, consider my ticket already bought, Mr. Boyle.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: ****/*.
Next review: The Zookeeper’s Wife