T2: Trainspotting

T2 Trainspotting (2017)
T2 Trainspotting poster Rating: 8.2/10 (1,923 votes)
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Irvine Welsh (novel), John Hodge (adaptation)
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Logan Gillies, Ben Skelton, Aiden Haggarty
Runtime: 117 min
Rated: R
Genre: Drama
Released: 17 Mar 2017
Plot: A continuation of the Trainspotting saga reuniting the original characters.

Back in 1996, when I was a slight bit younger than today, a film came along that captured my attention with it’s delicious blend of energy, music and poignant storytelling.  Adapted from the unfilmable novel by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting was a perfect reflection of the times in which it is set, capturing the carefree attitudes of being young in a decade of the lost.  It’s cast of characters were compelling to watch, and in the lead of Renton, Ewan McGregor cemented his career in films.  With the long awaited return of the gang to the big screen, many were hoping for another energetically fused outing for the gang.  So it is quite apt that T2: Trainspotting is a completely different film tonally to the first one, and a much better beast for it.  After all, twenty years have passed since then and, as I have in the real world, the characters in the film have aged, grown up, grown apart, and grown resentments and regrets.

Twenty years have passed since Mark Renton walked away with the takings from the deal that he, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewan Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) made.  Twenty years since that betrayal.  After living a life in Amsterdam, he finally returns to Edinburgh and begins trying to atone for his past.  Spud, he finds, has continued to struggle with addiction, which was made worse by Mark’s ‘generous’ gift at the end of the first film.  Sick Boy has built up a blackmail empire, whilst running a failing pub.  Begbie is still in prison, denied parole once more due to violent outbursts…although he has a plan to escape, which will put Mark’s life at risk if he finds out he is back.  As events of Mark’s past come back to haunt him, he reflects on his choices, and tries to find his place in the world now he is older and, allegedly, wiser.

T2 is a darker, more sombre film than the first, with a nostalgic melancholy that reflects the age of the characters now, and also the times we live in.  Echoes of 80s and 90s iconography sit under the modern setting, much in the same way it does in the world around us.  The Edinburgh that Mark returns to is a far different animal to the one he left, and the question of whether you can ever return home and re-kindle old relationships is the key theme here.  Spud is the emotional heart at the core of the film, and Mark sees saving him from his addiction as a way to redeem himself for his own past, and find some purpose.  His relationship with Sick Boy is more complicated, and adds an edge to the film in the scenes which have both Miller and McGregor on screen together (including a vicious, brutal fight in the pub between the two).  However it also forms the humour and levity as the pair embark on a new scheme to make money together – albeit always with the underlying distrust that the pair have for one another.  Begbie, played by the ever excellent Carlyle, is the shadowing menace, lurking just off screen, threatening to bring the whole thing toppling down.  The tension in waiting for him to discover Mark is back is edge-of-the-seat gripping, although he isn’t just played up as a monster, and his own personal journey with his son offers some extra pathos to proceedings.

Director Danny Boyle has grown significantly since the first film, with a career that would put many other directors to shame, and the stylings of this film reflect that aged experience beautifully.  From the dream sequences and drug visions, to the sombre, gritty streets of Edinburgh, his framing and depicture of each moment is carefully constructed to reflect the mood of the moment.

T2 isn’t the film we have waited 20 years for, and only borrows from the follow up novel (Porno) for a few themes, but it is the film we needed it to be.  Had it kept the same energy of the first film it would have felt entirely wrong for the now grown characters.  The different tone serves to make this a sequel that builds on the story, grounds it in reality, and acts as a perfect insight into what became of these rogues.   Oh, it also has a pretty awesome soundtrack too, as you would expect.

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