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***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***
The announcement of a sequel to Trainspotting was something that I wasn’t expecting. The ending to the cult hit of 1996 certainly left the door open for a future sequel, but I never imagined that it would ever happen ( I have since learned that the novel “Porno” is the sequel to it). A lot of questions when through my mind; how would they do it? Where will it go? Can you make a sequel after this long? The biggest question of all was does it need a sequel?
Trainspotting is one of those movies that stood out from the rest, and it’s one that still stands to this day. The film was highly controversial when it was released. It really got people talking. The part where the baby dies through neglect is one of the biggest talking points. One the other hand, the film is praised through it’s harsh, gritty, outlook on the drug scene. They don’t sugar coat it, that’s for sure.
I still remember the first time I watched it in 2001. I was only 14 at the time and had no idea what was going on. I didn’t even know what heroin was. After re-watching it, it’s way better than what I remembered it to be. Like I said, it still stands to this day.
The old gang return for the sequel. Danny Boyle returns to direct. Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle all reprise their roles from the original, with a few others making cameo appearances. Mark Renton (McGregor) is now living in Amsterdam, dreaming of the past and all the good times he had with his friends, Begbie, Sick-Boy, and Spud. All those jokes they shared and even the times they had with drugs. What about everybody that’s still in Edinburgh? Begbie (Carlyle) is in prison. Sick-Boy (JLM) owns one of the top bars in Scotland and also setting up blackmail targets in order to make money, and Spud (Bremner) is still struggling with the addiction of heroin. Renton returns home to make amends for betraying Spud and Sick-Boy. There’s one face Renton is keen to avoid in particular and that’s Francis “Franco” Begbie, his psychopathic friend who certainly hasn’t forgotten the betrayal and is keen to teach Renton a lesson.
Twenty years is an especially long time in film. I was skeptical because there’s been so many sequels, reboots or remakes that have left it too long and have failed to live to the original, and on the other hand I was enthused by the news, particularly with the fact that both Danny Boyle and the original cast would be coming back. I mean, doing a sequel to Trainspotting would a crime without the original cast. It would also have been lackluster had they just made the same film they did twenty years ago. Life changes a lot through that time. It makes for a much more interesting sequel as Danny Boyle delivers a film that reintroduces us to these familiar characters yet quickly informs us that, most of them, are living much different lives than before. The only person that’s still living in the past is Spud, but we see him as he tries to overcome his addictions and channel his energy into a more positive way through the help of Renton.
Danny Boyle has gone on record to say that he purposely waited twenty years to work on a sequel until the original actors themselves aged visibly enough to portray the same characters. To be honest, they have all aged well. The humour is there, in particular, this one scene which takes place in a club full of Catholic Hating Protestants. I’ll just leave it at that.
The performances are all there. It helps when you’ve got actors who clearly want to do justice to the original that made them stars. The real standout of the bunch is Robert Carlyle. He’s an actor that’s always been underrated and he truly is outstanding here. There are times where he makes you laugh, makes you terrified of him, and, in one case, makes you feel sorry for him.
Ewan McGregor gives a mature performance here. Trainspotting was the making of him. I always remember him saying in one interview that he actually considered taking heroin in order to have a better understanding of his character. From experience, all I can say is that thank Christ he didn’t get addicted to that shit!
There are a few negatives I have here. The film didn’t feel as slick as the original. This is probably because of the vast improvements in cinematography which you’d expect considering there’s an over 20-year age gap. I also thought that Ewan Bremner (Spud) was hit and miss. There were times where I thought his performance was over the top and too cartoony at times. The good outweighs the bad, though. He’s still battling addiction and you’re rooting for him to overcome his demons.
The film is very heavy on the nostalgia, which is expected for a film that’s been revived after so long. I suggest watching the first one so you can understand some of the scenes, jokes, and a famous toilet!
Oh yeah, there’s an updated “Choose Life” monologue which fits modern life perfectly.
I enjoyed Trainspotting 2 very much. It’s a sequel worthy enough to be mentioned in the same bracket as the original.
I recommend it.
Choose Life, Choose Trainspotting 2
Rating: **** (Champion)