Trainspotting was a stylistic and narrative surprise in 1996. It was the movie that essentially launched director Danny Boyle and actor Ewan McGregor’s careers. The film took a look at the working class lives of junkies in Scotland, and yet the tone of the film had a comedic and energetic flair unseen apart from, maybe, Guy Ritchie. The cast and creative team of Trainspotting decided to get together again to make a sequel, now titled T2: Trainspotting.
T2: Trainspotting takes place 20 years after the first film’s events. We slowly revisit the lives of each of the characters, starting with Mark (McGregor) who has a life in Amsterdam as an accountant, and Spud (Ewen Bremmer) who after getting fired as a construction worker has fallen back to cocaine, Sick Boy (Tommy Lee Miller) who makes a living by blackmailing rich men with sex tapes, and finally Begbie (Robert Carlyle) who is spending his days in jail. Mark comes back to visit and it results in the gang bumping into each other.
I have to say I was a bit let down by this film. The visual style and tone are all maintained, and the actors slip back into their characters easily, but you can’t help but feel that there is a lack of a story to tell. The majority of the first half of the film is spent checking in on each of the characters and reminding people of what happened in the first film. Then the rest of the film is mostly reminiscing how great Trainspotting was without really moving a story along. It’s only in the final 15 minutes of the film that there is actual progress done in these characters’ journey.
The film does have a nice analysis of life after drugs. It shows how some may fall back into the bad habit, but it also shows the struggle of ex-addicts and how they will never fully fit in their new society, despite having been clean for 20 years. In a sense this film makes you long for the original in the same sense that Mark might long for another shot of heroin. It’s a depressing and frankly untouched phase of the addiction process in Hollywood.
But T2 is a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong it is a joy to look at – visually – and there are some fairly original pieces of humor scattered here and there. But as for narrative enjoyment or value in revisiting these characters, there’s not much else.