Review: T2 Trainspotting (★★★★)

4 stars

Let’s get this straight. This is not Trainspotting 2. This isn’t a heroine fuelled, barrage to the senses, rumpus through the streets of Edinburgh. Instead, we are treated to the bittersweet return of beloved characters overcoming the demons of memory, ageing and still having nothing to pride themselves in, except their friendship. Yet this doesn’t deter from the fact that T2 Trainspotting is a truly fitting conclusion to a story we never knew needed one.

1

This is definitely a film that requires you to have experienced Trainspotting. Depending on how long ago you first saw it, will definitely impact how much you gain from T2 Trainspotting. I only saw the film 7 years ago and it’s themes still resonated with me strongly.

When I say don’t expect a rumpus, I tell a lie. It’s a riot from start to finish, however, this time without the intoxication of multiple substances to cloud its portrayal. The language is hilariously vile and the ridiculous schemes the gang concoct will bring a smile to anyone familiar with the antics of Renton, Sickboy, Spud and Begbie.

All the original cast return, and when I say this, I mean everyone. Even Renton’s father is still portrayed by James Cosmo. Despite this, none of these cameos feel forced. It’s organic and helps maintain the reality of the fiction as well as enhance the themes of ‘times gone by’  within the film.

3

With the return of the original cast comes the highlight of the show, Frank Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who’s just as ferocious and terrifying as he was 20 years ago. Carlyle gives it his all, capturing the testosterone filled rage and energy we’ve all come to love. The most surprising part of the film for me was how much of the story revolves around Spud (Ewen Bremner). He was always the innocent one of the bunch and seeing his story develop was touching and heartfelt. Obviously, Evan McGregor returns as Renton, yet this time with a new lease on life. ‘Be an addict, just be addicted to something else’, he preaches as he tries to find footing in his hometown. The classic ‘Choose Life’ monologue from the original gains a new updated version as he tries to explain to Sickboy’s new girlfriend where the saying originates from. At first, when I saw it in the trailer, I thought that it would be a retreading of the same material, however, it’s delivered in such a powerful way that I’m warming to the idea that it might be better than the original. Sickboy (Jonny Lee Miller) is still a scoundrel. Scheming his way to a paycheck left, right and centre dragging any unfortunate soul that’s in his path with him. Which,  in turn, provides a majority of the dirty deeds that slightly takes us back to the ridiculous nature of the original film. 

As stated earlier, the film’s themes and tone are definitely different. This can be seen by the parallels between the first shots of both movies. As Trainspotting begins with Renton hitting the pavement as he flees the grasps of the law, T2 starts with Renton hitting the treadmill as he flees the grasp of his ever ageing physique. There are many parallels to be made between scenes in both films and seeing them play out is a joy to behold.

2

As the film is about memory, we do see a lot a intercut scenes scattered throughout T2, showing clips from the original film. Some scenes are not even in the original film. Yet they are edited by Danny Boyle in such a way that they are fragments; distant snippets of time forgotten to portray how we all recall the good times and the bad. As Sickboy states, ‘You’re a tourist in your own nostalgia,’ you get a sense of connection between the films that quells any notion that this is a cash-in for the original cast. Despite this, the film’s reliance on the original can grow tiresome. This will depend on how much you enjoy Trainspotting, but after several flashbacks, it can sometimes overwhelm you with how bombastic the original was compared to T2.

The soundtrack to Trainspotting was iconic. The thumping drums of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ not only gave the first shots huge amounts of energy, they also portrayed a deeper meaning with its lyrical content. This can be seen throughout the entire film and it’s a pleasure to say that T2 doesn’t disappoint either. The soundtrack hits every beat perfectly with some of the more sombre songs encompassing not only T2 but also the original film also. Wolf Alice’s ‘Silk’ soars over the final scenes of the film with lyrics such as, ‘Just looking for a protector, God never reached out in time, There’s love, there is a saviour
But that ain’t no love of mine,’ which perfectly embellishes the journey we’ve seen the characters go on from way back in 1996.

5

I thoroughly enjoyed T2 Trainspotting and definitely think it has a ‘The Godfather Part 1&2’ connection to it that helps the film tie up a story we never knew we wanted. As the music playing over the title card echoes, ‘This is the beginning of the end,’ I’m glad to see a closing chapter to such a beloved group of deadbeat delinquents.

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