by Lachlan Anderson
Rated R18+. Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller. Directed by Danny Boyle.
That was the mantra of the 1996 era-defining Trainspotting from director Danny Boyle. But what happens when life catches up to you? Twenty-one years after the smash hit original, T2 Trainspotting arrives on our screens to keep us updated on Scotland’s most beloved junkies. Please note that this review contains spoilers for Trainspotting.
Twenty years after the events of the first film Mark Renton (McGregor) returns home to Edinburgh to reconnect with his friends Simon “Sickboy” (Miller) and Daniel “Spud” (Bremner). Tensions arise over Renton’s betrayal two decades ago, but he and Simon soon go into business together. Meanwhile the psychopath Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has escaped from prison and holds a hefty grudge against Renton.
In an era of Hollywood that emphasises the sequel and the franchise film, this is a welcome piece of nostalgia. It’s been long enough in between that it doesn’t feel rushed, though following up the critically beloved Trainspotting is no mean feat. Boyle returns more to the style and form he is known for. This film maintains a lot of the energy that has been missing from his last few movies. He also finds a thousand new places to put the camera, each odd angle drawing the audience out of their comfort zones and into the Edinburgh underworld. The main cast are all on fine form, particularly Carlyle, whose Begbie is the best kind of terrifying. He may also have the worst language of any screen character this year.
On that note, there is plenty to be cautious of when choosing to buy tickets. If you’re not a fan of extremely coarse language, drug use and sexual references then this might be one to avoid.
The problem with doing a sequel to this story is that even after twenty years there isn’t much to say. The characters are older, but they still have the same flaws. The first film celebrated youth. This one laments middle age. It’s not the most original sequel concept, but the film’s charm is more in the execution and characters than the story.
Mark famously utters his Choose Life speech at the opening of the first film. A kind of mock mantra, a snide rebellion against growing up. Ironically Renton chose life, but it didn’t satisfy him, to the point that he revisits the speech this time around, with just as much venom. In Renton’s mind, there is no point in choosing “life” but to him it’s just the trappings of the modern era. A job. A family. A house. Facebook. But true life isn’t found in any of these things. Jesus himself said in John 14:6:
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus does offer true life, better life than drugs can offer, or the security of a job and home.
The Verdict: Twenty years later and Renton, Sickboy, Spud and Begbie are still just as entertaining. T2 Trainspotting is Boyle back to his old tricks and on good form, but it lacks anything interesting to say about aging and life. Choose Life. Choose Jesus. 3.5/5
T2 Trainspotting is in cinemas now.