A Belated Sequel Worth the Wait
Decades-in-the-making sequels have been all the rage lately. Recently, we have received belated sequels to hits like Independence Day, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Blair Witch Project. Even the last two Star Wars movies fall into this category. Joining their ranks now is this sequel to the 1996 cult favorite Trainspotting. While most of these sequels feel more like cash grabs than anything else, T2 Trainspotting actually feels like a story that is worth telling. The characters are ones whom we are interested in catching up with and director Danny Boyle—then an up-and-comer, now an Oscar-winner—peppers the movie with the same creative flourishes that made the original so much fun to watch.
The sequel opens the same as the original: with Ewan McGregor’s Mark Renton running. Only this time instead of running through the streets to evade pursuers, he is running on the treadmill after deciding to “choose life” at the end of the first movie. The first movie ended with Mark betraying his friends and sneaking away with the money they recently acquired in a drug deal. The sequel picks up twenty years later with Mark returning to Edinburgh for the first time since and reuniting with the friends whom he betrayed all those years ago.
The first friend he seeks out is Spud, the only one whom Mark left money for when he fled. Unfortunately, Spud pumped that money directly into his arm and still struggles with heroin addiction. Then there is “Sick Boy” Simon, who now runs the bar that the boys used to hang out at. He supplements that minimal income by blackmailing high-profile public figures with embarrassing habits. Finally, there is Begbie, the hothead who has spent the last twenty years in prison for his crimes in the first movie. Mark, Spud, and Simon are mostly able to put their past behind them and focus on a new venture together, but Begbie can think of nothing but escaping and seeking his revenge.
Although there is a sequel to the book ‘Trainspotting’ called ‘Porno’, the movie sequel is mostly original with some previously unused material from the original novel worked in. The original novel is even worked into the plot and a scene is included that further explains how the story got its title. Clips from the first movie are also cleverly littered throughout the film working to remind viewers of where these characters came from. Most of the callbacks to the first film feel earned with the lone exception being a cameo by Kelly Macdonald as Karen. Karen, Mark’s love interest in the first film, shows up in the sequel as an attorney they want to hire for Simon’s blackmail case. It’s a fine cameo in the moment, but the blackmail storyline doesn’t go anywhere, making it feel like a wasted effort in retrospect.
The plot of the movie doesn’t necessarily break the mold, but the characters are so much fun that it is easy to forgive the story some of its more familiar threads. The chemistry between the actors was one of the elements that made the original so successful and twenty years has not done anything to diminish that. Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller share the most entertaining scenes, with a standout being an impromptu music performance at a Loyalist Pub, but Ewen Bremner as Spud is definitely the heart of the movie. Probably the most overshadowed of the group in the original film, Spud’s character arc is what really drives this movie and it is nice to see him get to do some of the emotional heavy lifting.
The movie does an excellent job of blending comedy and personal drama, while mixing in some chaotic action for good measure. Danny Boyle and crew film and edit the movie in such an exciting, colorful, and clever way that it is easy to get lost in. And the soundtrack, one of the most memorable aspects of the original film, is once again fantastic.
All of this adds up to make T2 Trainspotting feel like a sequel that is warranted and well worth the effort. It probably won’t make the same kind of money as something like Independence Day: Resurgence, but it will likely stick around in our cinematic consciousness much, much longer.
T2 Trainspotting is rated R for “drug use, language throughout, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and some violence.” That description pretty much covers everything. The R rating is appropriate.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of T2 Trainspotting.