Director Danny Boyle brings together the cast from ‘Trainspotting’ for a nostalgic sequel that fills in the last twenty years of the story.
Like many of my generation, Danny Boyle’s 1996 movie, Trainspotting, left an indelible impression. I first saw the film at a midnight screening on its cinematic release. The film both fascinated me and left an uneasy feeling in equal measures.
Depictions of drug use and the effects thereof were graphic beyond that usually seen on-screen at the time. There was tragedy and comedy.
The film provided iconic imagery. From the famous poster that promoted Trainspotting, which was unlike anything ever seen before, to Boyle’s use of music which didn’t just provide a soundtrack, it was integral to the plot. Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ is a hedonist’s anthem. Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ is equally poignant.
Trainspotting remains a difficult watch in places. If there’s a real-life version of a movie character I never want to meet, it’s Begbie. Robert Carlyle’s portrayal of the psychopathic, alcoholic and volatile character scares the shit out of me. Renton’s cold turkey scene cramps my stomach in empathy. The baby crawling on the ceiling is as unsettling now as it was then.
I last watched Trainspotting about a year ago. The film evoked the same emotions I felt when watching for the first time. It holds up – and because it remains a timeless success the pressure to ‘not mess up’ the sequel is high.
Based on the novel of the same title by Irvine Welsh, ‘Trainspotting’ was a phenomenal success and Welsh followed up the story in his 2002 book, ‘Porno’.
T2: Trainspotting, loosely borrows from the second novel and reunites the same cast both twenty years on in their careers, and twenty years on as characters.
Less visually graphic in terms of violence and drug use, T2 is a two hour romp heaped in nostalgia, where as much has changed as hasn’t in the working class Edinburgh backdrop.
Since the edgy ending to Trainspotting – where Renton (Ewan McGregor) betrays the trust of his friends and takes off with their collective £16,000.00 – the central character has been living in Amsterdam, keeping clean and keeping fit. But as life and his health takes an inevitable turn for the worse he finds himself returning home to face up to the past.
Not much has moved on for those Renton left behind. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee-Miller) runs a failing bar and dabbles in extortion alongside a myriad of petty crime. Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is where you’d expect, serving time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Meanwhile Spud (Ewen Bremner) hasn’t fared well. His relationship in tatters, all but estranged from his son and still addicted to heroin. We join the hapless sidekick at his lowest ebb.
Although drugs are an intrinsic component of the plot, usage isn’t so graphically depicted on screen this time around. Indeed the violence is toned down too as Boyle cleverly avoids the pitfalls of attempting to one-up himself.
Instead the focus of the film is built around incredulous moments of comedy and familiar, fast-paced, blunt dialogue – all set off with similarly quick visual cuts, flashbacks and clever camera angles.
Throughout the course of the film Renton must face each of those he so unceremoniously ripped off twenty years prior. Sick Boy secretly wants to kill him. Begbie has dreamt of nothing other than killing him for twenty years. And Spud is trying not to kill himself.
The proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan when Begbie escapes the clutches of custody. Meanwhile a young beautiful women, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), attracts the affections of both Sick Boy and Renton, providing further cause for friction.
Running at just under two hours T2: Trainspotting will entertain throughout. It is laugh out loud funny and littered with WTF moments. Those of us that remember the first film will enjoy the nostalgia and find no trouble picking up the thread. Newcomers to this bleak, drug addled landscape will no doubt feel as I did at that midnight screening twenty years ago.
Trainspotting is in UK Cinemas now with a US scheduled for April 7th.