Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Drug Use, Language throughout, Strong Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity and some Violence
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: John Hodge
(based on the novels TRAINSPOTTING and PORNO by Irvine Welsh)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Kyle Fitzpatrick & Anjela Nedyalkova
Danny Boyle has been attempting to get a TRAINSPOTTING sequel off the ground for the better part of the last decade. He encountered problems in adapting Irvine Welsh’s follow-up novel PORNO, which didn’t seem to work as its own movie. His original plan for TRAINSPOTTING 2 took place 9 years later and this eventually transformed into 20 years. It was a risky move to say the least. Would Danny Boyle be able to recapture the magic of TRAINSPOTTING? Would the cast be able to come back convincingly as their unforgettably colorful characters? Would T2 serve as a worthy successor to one of the best films from the 90s? Well, T2 TRAINSPOTTING is a movie miracle because the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes!” This sequel is every bit as great as its predecessor.
Two decades after the first film’s events, reformed-junkie-turned-thief Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s not surprising that Renton’s friends don’t exactly give him a warm welcome, because he did steal 16 thousand pounds from them and was living off of it in Amsterdam. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still a junkie and has become suicidal, so Renton attempts to clean him up and channel his addiction elsewhere. Meanwhile, Renton finds a business opportunity with opportunistic scumbag Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and his dominatrix girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Things seem to be looking up, but violent psychopath Begbe (Robert Carlyle) has escaped from prison and is hellbent on getting bloody revenge on Renton for screwing him over.
Over two decades have passed since TRAINSPOTTING’s release, but the returning cast members feel completely natural in this sequel. It’s as if they were anxiously awaiting the chance to play these characters again. Ewan McGregor is likable as Renton and attempts to turn his life around for the better, in the aftermath of many mistakes and disappointments. Meanwhile, Jonny Lee Miller is a perfect as Sick Boy. He’s both devious and very fun to watch. Ewen Bremner elicits the most sympathy from the viewer as Spud, who’s trying to kick his drug addiction for good and ultimately winds up with the film’s most heartfelt moments. Robert Carlyle is fantastic as Begbe, coming across as both a scary villain and a tragic antagonist (receiving a surprisingly emotional bit in the final third).
Much like the performances, TRAINSPOTTING 2’s plot feels as if this was the exact way things were intended to go from the beginning. That’s quite an achievement when you consider that Danny Boyle, Irvine Welsh, and John Hodge constructed this story from bits and pieces of two novels (TRAINSPOTTING and PORNO) alongside lots of original material. This sequel also creatively incorporates callbacks to the first film in ways that don’t distract from the proceedings. There are occasional echoes of the predecessor’s soundtrack and a minute of footage from that film is brilliantly brought into the proceedings. I loved how this follow-up was able to naturally connect to the original in a way that didn’t seem forced at all.
TRAINSPOTTING 2’s soundtrack is just as phenomenal as the first film’s unforgettable selection of songs. From a remixed version of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” to oldies and new wave tunes alike, I’ve been rocking this soundtrack on my headphones since I watched this film and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Though TRAINSPOTTING 2’s narrative is brilliant in that it furthers along these characters and ties up loose ends from the last film, Danny Boyle also seems to be having a field day with this sequel’s style. He plays with the camera in fun ways and seems to be outright experimenting in certain scenes. For the most part (much like the first film’s wild execution), it works damn near flawlessly. However, I have one gripe in that some childhood flashbacks seemed like a bit too much. It’s a minor complaint with an otherwise phenomenal film.
T2 TRAINSPOTTING is a rare sequel that works on the same level of its predecessor and serves as a brilliant companion piece to that film. Watching the first TRAINSPOTTING and this sequel should make for a fantastic viewing experience that I highly recommend, especially if you haven’t seen either of these films. TRAINSPOTTING 2 is an incredibly written, visually stunning, and deeply emotional experience that will keep the viewer thinking about it long after it’s over. Here’s hoping that we eventually get a TRAINSPOTTING 3 in another 15-20 years, though these two films make a perfect double feature.