March 7, 2017
"Trainspotting" was a celebrated British film in 1996 which dealt about a gang of young heroin addicts living in the underbelly of Edinburgh, Scotland. This sometimes violent, sometimes disgusting, always frenetic film was directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay written by John Hodge based on the book by Irvine Welsh. It was one of the top 10 best British films of all time in the list released by the British Film Institute in 1999. This new sequel "T2 Trainspotting" is set in real time twenty years after the events from the first "Trainspotting" film.
A major act of betrayal by Mark "Rent Boy" Renton split up their gang. He left and moved to Amsterdam to make a new life for himself, while his friends all stagnated in Edinburgh. Pretty boy Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson remained on drugs and dabbled in blackmail. Fearsome hothead Francis "Franco" Begbie is serving a 25-year prison sentence. Simpleton Daniel "Spud" Murphy is helplessly wallowing in drug miseries as he is losing his wife and son. When Renton came back to Edinburgh after his 20 year estrangement, he would soon discover that his betrayal was not yet so easily forgotten by the friends he left behind
Ewan McGregor, we are still very familiar with since he is a big movie star. The other guys are still very active actors, but more in British films than Hollywood, hence were not really as visible to me as McGregor. I know Jonny Lee Miller more as Angelina Jolie's first husband. The last big role I recall Robert Carlisle in was "The Full Monty" (1997). I don't remember Ewen Bremner in anything else.
As Mark and Simon. McGregor and Miller both still look fit and able in the central dramatic roles, more mature, but still daring enough to run across a field nude and do a spontaneous piano-song number. Most of the violence was care of the manic Franco, still played with palpable menace by Carlisle, albeit now hampered by issues of sexual potency. Most of the comedy was care of the funny-faced Spud, still delightfully played by Bremner, albeit now tempered with issues of being an inadequate family man.
Kelly MacDonald, who played the 15-year old schoolgirl Diane who gets involved with Renton in the first film, is back here as Atty. Diane Coulston, but this was practically only a cameo. The main female role is that of a Bulgarian prostitute Veronika who gets involved with all the guys, played with sultry rawness by Anjela Nedyalkova.
As the cast became middle aged, the film itself also mellowed a lot from the explosive energy of the first film. Even the color palette and the musical score have also toned down significantly. While there were still sporadic bursts of action, violence, sex and drug abuse, this sequel is a more sedate and more thoughtful affair which concentrates more on the relationships of the four guys.
Since the first "Trainspotting" brought director Danny Boyle into the big time, he has since already won an Oscar in Directing for "Slumdog Millionaire" in 2008. The first film was so controversial with its very frank depiction of heroin addiction. There were bizarre and nightmarish scenes of a man crawling into a toilet bowl full of excrement, a dead infant crawling on the ceiling, among others. Now however, there were less of these shocking scenes. The direction in this sequel is more polished, even-keeled and sophisticated, in tune with the more mature outlook. As a plus, Boyle incorporated a number of memorable clips and lines ("Choose Life") from the previous film for fans to reminisce with.
The main draw of this film for me was the nostalgia of seeing the four members of the old gang back together again, everyone 20 years older. Now, if you have no idea what the first "Trainspotting" was all about, you may not really understand this one very much. Without that sense of nostalgia, this may just seem like any random action-drama film with weirdo characters barely understood because of their heavy Scottish accents.
As for me, I liked this one because I know (though not exactly love) the first "Trainspotting" film. This sequel (also written by John Hodge based on the second book by Irvine Welsh entitled "Porno") gave me a satisfying story of what happened to its notable characters twenty years hence. Admittedly, this new film did not exactly break any new cinematic ground anymore like its bold predecessor, but it still triumphs with its own charms. 7/10.