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Review: T2 Trainspotting

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Published by Glasgowist.

Trainspotting is the film of the 1990s, the film of a generation. A phenomenon that perfectly captured a decade in time, making the world laugh, cry, cringe, and recoil in horror, disgust, and delight. Mark Renton, Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson, Danny ‘Spud’ Murphy, and Francis ‘Franco’ Begbie are characters almost every Scot can name and describe in what is undoubtedly the biggest and most loved film ever to come out of Scotland. The tale of prolonged adolescence, friendship, heroin addiction, and ‘life’ itself has resonance around the globe. With masses of devoted fans, new and old, still standing 20 years later, T2 Trainspotting is probably one of, if not the, most highly-anticipated British film sequels of this lifetime. And the film event of the year is finally here.

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Sick Boy’s ‘Unifying Theory of Life’ is certainly proven true in T2 Trainspotting. Our favourite Leith scamps had it – whatever ‘it’ was – and they’ve lost it. Now that the magic and indestructability of youth has dissipated, Renton, Simon, Spud, and Begbie, now middle-aged, have little to show for the last 20 years. Caught in a bleak cycle of regret, misplacement, bad choices, a search for something to replace addiction, and fruitless efforts to ‘choose life’, they search for fond nostalgia – reduced to being, as Simon remarks, ‘tourists in their own youth’.

A crossroads for each character sees them all returning home to Edinburgh with debts to pay, unfinished business to take care of, and a lot of baggage. With new and old faces popping up, Renton (Ewan McGregor) is home, escaping from a life in Amsterdam that has crumbled around him. 46-years-old and lost like a lone child in a supermarket, he goes back to the only place that resembles home in the hope of righting wrongs and starting again. He chose life, but it turns out life is harder than he thought it would be.

Another lost soul is Simon (Jonny Lee Miller). Desperately clinging on to his playboy charm, youth, and looks, and trying to convince himself that he’s still cool and business savvy, he, too, is struggling with what to do with his life. As much as Renton and Simon could kill each other at times, they also can’t live without each other. And together they resort to their old life of seedy, money-making scams and dodgy dealings that could see them getting into more trouble than they ever expected.

Spud (Ewen Bremner), resembling a baby-faced old man now more than ever, is utterly adorable and hilarious in his heart-warming fondness for his long-lost friends, his childlike sentimentality and sensitivity, and his inherent goodness. Arguably the only character out of the four who is truly good at the core, Spud’s story takes a heart-breaking and seemingly hopeless turn. Still a Leith junkie – popping pills, sniffing powder, and injecting heroin – Spud is still very much stuck in a cycle of behaviour, dreaming of the days when youth offered a vessel through which he could plunge into oblivious and forget about the real world. For fans of Irvine Welsh’s Porno (2002), which T2 Trainspotting is very loosely based on, you can expect to see the same new literary side of Spud that features in the novel, but with a dramatic and very clever twist towards the end.

As for the man, the myth, the legend, Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle), he’s out of prison. But when I say ‘out’, I mean he’s escaped. As terrifying as ever, Begbie is on a rampage to track down the man he’s been plotting his revenge against for the last two, cold decades in an Edinburgh prison. And his opportunity has finally come.

The showdown between Rents and Franco, the ultimate square-go 20 years in the making, is everything we could’ve hoped for. With Spud and Simon on hand to intervene, an adrenaline-fuelled dual takes place, filled with fist-clenching, literal mouth-gaping moments. It is at this point, too, that we see the film’s tense, most shocking moment as a life quite literally hangs in the balance.

With a soundtrack – dare I say it – better than the last, a greater depth of emotion and sentiment, T2 Trainspotting is not Trainspotting. As Diane (Kelly Macdonald) predicted, the world has changed, music has changed, even drugs have changed. T2 Trainspotting is a whole other film, a whole new animal. The film stands alone as a reflection and a fitting tribute to its predecessor that grows old but doesn’t quite grow up with its legion of adoring fans. Dealing with issues of masculinity, adulthood, parenthood, and getting old, T2 Trainspotting offers audiences a detailed background of this dysfunctional family dynamic that is steeped in history, loyalty, betrayal, and, somewhere underneath it all, love. With moments of memorial for lost friends and a look back at darker times, T2 Trainspotting contains several flashbacks and parallels to the original in a film that is somewhat self-aware of the incomparable legacy it is part of.

The performances delivered by the original cast are superb, with Ewen Bremner, in particular, serving up an exceptional portrayal of everyone’s favourite catboy. In a story of bitterness, ghosts of the past, and new hope in a new plot with tears, surprises, and massive laughs, filmgoers and diehard Trainspotting fans alike are in for a treat. Director Danny Boyle hasn’t tried to create a cheap, copycat version of the original – something everyone will be thankful for. He’s done something completely different. T2 Trainspotting is truly original, unmissable, and deserving of following in the footsteps of Danny Boyle’s original phenomenon that is rightly adored the world over.

★★★★★

What did you think of T2 Trainspotting? Let me know in the comment section below.

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