Take a second and brace yourself from what we are about to say.
The internet is the unequivocal birthplace of hype, hyperbole and any bullshit over exaggeration that you can think of the in the 24 hour news cycle that we live in, that’s what makes it all the more amazing when something not only lives up to the hype that was earned from the original, but actually surpasses it. T2: Trainspotting is an incredibly self-aware trip down memory lane that manages to take the piss out of us as audience for being so goddamn nostalgic in the first place and it makes for what is easily one of the best films of Writer/Director Danny Boyle’s career…and that’s saying something.
It’s been twenty years since that flash moment of opportunity followed by a shocking betrayal that changed the lives of these four former friends forever…and as much as things change they often stay the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he’s ever been able to call home and everyone is waiting for him. Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) each with their own axe to grind. Meanwhile, other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, self-destruction and mortal danger are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the frenetic maelstrom that asks him the eternal question while on the brink of a mid-life crisis…Choose Life.
An insanely wise mediation on memory and nostalgia, T2: Trainspotting takes us down memory lane while still reminding us that it is a two lane street because as much as we love remembering and reliving the good times, there’s an equal amount of shit waiting for us that most of us would rather leave in the rear view mirror.
Ultimately this is the sequel Boyle had to make; it wouldn’t have worked any other way. He smartly does revisit some of the same beats from the original but him along with writer John Hodge are meticulously careful in making sure that we do at least see an evolution in these characters that are still the eternally loveable fuck ups that we knew them to be from the first installment. Boyle shoots it all in a surprisingly dark patter that allows it all to have a certain mood and gravitas since in the first one they were just an indestructible mess of energy fighting against a world that was trying to form them, he allows their well defined flaws and strengths to come to the forefront. This is the evolved version of themselves who have made peace with the fact, that it’s actually still shite being Scottish, but at least now in one way or another they want to try and make the best of it. The scenario that we as audience are dropped into is razor sharp and draws into the lives of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy (now Simon) with astonishing ease.
While obviously the biggest star and the emotional lynch pin of this story, Ewan McGregor actually has to do the least amount of work on this one. Over the past twenty years he has carved out a healthy niche for himself playing variations on Ewan McGregor. That’s not a knock on him, but coming off the heels of his failed directorial debut; American Pastoral you’ve got to believe that he was looking for an easy lay-up the next time out, and this provided that in spades. Jonny Lee Miller straddles the line as Simon, still conflicted by his former maniacal dirt bag self that ultimately knows he just doesn’t have the energy to keep that intensity up like the old days. Both he and McGregor actually play off each other well as they re-enter their old rhythms. While the great Robert Carlyle ended up just playing Begbie in a lost rage of years wasted, it worked for the character but the real revelation this time out was Ewen Bremmer as Spud. Often forgotten about as sad comic relief in the first one this time out he has a tragically self aware sense of his own existence, the life he has wasted to drugs and the friends who are the only people he has ever loved but have also led him down his path of self destruction. Bremmer allows the humor in Spud to remain while giving him a layer of pathos wrapped up in some genuine ambition to just not be the fuck up that he has always been. He’s the heart of T2: Trainspotting and it is beating hard.
Ultimately how people compare this installment with the original Trainspotting will all depend on where they are in their lives and that’s fine but as a piece of cinema, kudos have to be given to Danny Boyle and the entire team for making one of those rare cinematic sequels. A film that is just as, if not more relevant then the first one was.