“So, Mark, what have you been up to? For 20 years?”
Feel free to debate me on this one, but Danny Boyle’s T2: Trainspotting is the most anticipated sequel we’ve had in a long time. Loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno, and set 20 years after the original, the film follows the adventures of Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie, who captivated audiences and caused mass controversy due to their addictive, psychopathic and hedonistic personalities back in 1996. Some argued that the original film glamorised drug use, some argued it was so repulsive and bleak that it worked better than any anti-drug advertisement ever could. The film is like Marmite, but you can’t argue that it didn’t massively influence cinema as we know it, with its R-Rated content, its amazing soundtrack, and its gritty yet stunning cinematography. Even if you haven’t seen the first film, you’ve probably seen one of the scenes, such as Renton’s big monologue in the opening sequence or him hallucinating falling into a toilet. These scenes will forever be iconic, and for good reasons.
With any sequel, you can’t help but wonder if it was necessary. Too often filmmakers seem to cash in on the franchise and make an average film with the original title splashed across all the posters. Of course, T2: Trainspotting was no different. When they announced they were making it, I had mixed emotions. On one hand I was excited to see them back in action, and I was excited to hear Danny Boyle was back behind the camera again, as he’s one of my favourite directors. On the other, my brain thought: “Can they REALLY pull off a sequel? The first one was so good that they can’t afford to mess this one up”.
Thankfully, they didn’t, and when I sat down in the cinema I was presented with a sequel that was on par with the original film. In all honesty, it was like the characters had never left. They were familiar, yet older, and exactly where we expected them to be. T2: Trainspotting alludes to important moments seen in the first film without feeling forced, reminding us of key events and making us wonder how they’ve impacted the characters. Renton returns to Scotland after stabbing his friends in the back to find Begbie in prison, Spud feeling suicidal, and Sick Boy continuing to live a life of crime. It’s as bleak as the first film, and rightly so.
The performances in T2: Trainspotting are commendable, particularly Robert Carlyle’s performance as Francis Begbie. If you thought he was terrifying in the original film, just wait until you see him now. In a similar fashion to infamous horror villains, he provides several nail-biting moments where you’re not sure what’s going to happen next. Likewise, Ewen Bremner should be praised for his performance as Spud. He steals the limelight in a good way, as Boyle places much more focus on him as opposed to how he was portrayed in the original film. After watching this I felt like I understood Spud more, and that it wasn’t just about Renton anymore, it was about the people he’d left behind too.
Now, for the burning question: is the soundtrack as good as Trainspotting’s? My answer is yes. I wouldn’t say it was better but it certainly worked with the film, something that Danny Boyle has always proven he can do. I’m yet to find a film soundtrack of his that I dislike; he certainly has a gift for including the right songs at the right moments. Expect songs from Blondie, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Clash and more. Trust me – it’s good.
It’s up to you whether or not you trust the opinion of a 21-year-old, considering I was one when the original Trainspotting came out. But as a huge fan of Boyle and his other films (including Shallow Grave, 127 Hours, 28 Days Later) I expect very high quality from him, and it was clear he gave his all to this project. After watching and studying Trainspotting several times in college and university, I’m familiar with how much of an important film it is, and how any follow up film had to be treated with respect.
It’s nostalgic, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s terrifying, it’s disgusting, it’s graphic, it’s the sequel Trainspotting deserved.