“You ruined my life, and now you’re ruining my fucking death too!” – Spud, T2 Trainspotting (2017).
My experience with the first Trainspotting (1996) film was just under a month before I had watched this film. I had bought both of them with the intention of watching them as soon as possible, and that’s exactly what I did. Taking place almost twenty years later, Boyle reunites the original cast to take another shot at Renton and where he is now. So does it live up to that of the original, or does it do what every other sequel does? Because let’s face it, the biggest problem on everyone’s mind is that this film may very well be just a nostalgia fuelled cash in.
The problem with films like this is that you need to be very careful that you don’t fall into playing to nostalgia. While at times it definitely feels like this film does so, it’s certainly not to the level you would expect. Obviously because the film is based off of the first, it leads on quite nicely. It almost feels like a “where are they now” style showing, but not to the cliche or awkward extent of most of them. For me, personally, it was a great return to the lives of these characters and it couldn’t have been done better.
Boyle manages to make the impossible work, somehow. In the first ten to twenty minutes we’re right back in the lives of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and my favourite, Begbie. It’s nice to see that the whole cast were up for returning, and eventually seeing them all together was great. Instead of basing the plot on the friendship of the friends like the first one did, the film instead plays into the breakdown at the end of the first film. Begbie escapes from prison, and when hearing Renton is in town, seeks out his revenge.
I don’t think there’s anything really that wrong with this film. What it does it does well, however it’s what the film lacks that annoys me the most. Diane is in the film, but only has a whole two lines which was a genuine shame. Considering her integral role in the first film, I was really expecting something much more. On top of that you need to consider the introduction of newer characters, who don’t always work. They’re forgettable and that may be because they’re starring alongside these memorable characters. We care more for Renton and Sick Boy than we do for newer introductions such as Begbie’s son.
Not that these new characters provide bad performances though, they’re just shadowed by the ever impressive performances of the main cast. A new and improved Renton returns with Ewan McGregor providing some fantastic work throughout. Alongside that is notably Robert Carlyle who once again gives a superb performance as the biggest loudmouth in cinematic history. What did concern me a tad though was the lacking appearances of Spud. By no means is he a minor character, but he’s not really integral to the story in any way, shape or form. He’s sort of just there for the sake of being there. Without Spud, I’d honestly say this film would be minimally impacted.
Possibly the most radical change of all to this film is the increase in humour throughout. Quite a lot of laugh out loud moments feature throughout the film, including the bit with the No More Catholics song. That’s a great mix of acting and comedy right there and possibly one of the funniest things in the film. Alongside that of course is the general chemistry between the whole cast. Without that chemistry there obviously wouldn’t be funny moments as frequently. I’m genuinely quite surprised McGregor can sing that well in the first place. Just a quick note at the end of this paragraph, the new “Choose Life” speech is very solid. Nice update to it, but I don’t want to spoil it.
Without Boyle behind the direction of this film, it simply wouldn’t have worked. Some sequels are handled by different directors, for example Aliens (1986). It’s always nice to see the source material creator come back to give it another go. To me it seems as if Boyle wanted to give this another go as a way to iron out the issues of the first. That’s exactly what he does and it’s surprising how well he manages this. His direction, cinematography and how it links in with the music throughout is utterly superb. Unfortunately though there is no use of a Pulp song at all.
Possibly the best part of this film is the genuine difference to the previous instalment. Rather than being dark and dreary, the film instead opts for a lot of colour and even a bit of class at times. We’ve seen the characters develop, so to mirror this, so does the direction. It’s surprising how well this film works given that the majority of other films to try this similar routine have crashed and burned. Hell, it’s even worth noting how good the choreography is. Specifically speaking, the first fight scene with Sick Boy and Renton, along with Begbie and Renton towards the end of the film.
So that was T2 Trainspotting. After speaking to my Dad, my media teacher and several close friends, I seem to be the only one that prefers this over the original. Maybe it’s because it’s a bit more focused or that it’s a genuinely perfect continuation of its source material. Either way, Boyle’s on top form with this excellent film. He manages to adapt his style to a changing market of film, and with this manages to produce something so very different while at the same time sticking so close to the source material.
There’s no problem with sequels when they’re done well, especially in this case with Danny Boyle. He knew what he was doing and it’s obvious that a lot of care has gone into this project. T2 Trainspotting, to me, is so much better than the original. Maybe that’s because I’m thankful it didn’t become one of those films and you know exactly what I mean by that. With some great performances throughout and superb direction, this film may be better than its original. Less about the heroin, more about the bonds and breakdowns of the former group of the first movie.