Trainspotting was a turning point for British cinema. A film about bored and poor heroin addicts ended up being a springboard for Ewan McGregor’s career, received widespread critical acclaim and – despite having a budget of £1.5 million – it managed to gross £48 million worldwide. Based on the eponymous book by Irvine Welsh, it was an ironic antithesis to the “Britain is cool again” ethos of the Cool Britannia era. In the original 1996 film director Danny Boyle expertly captured the horrific underbelly of youth subculture at the time, and the boredom and tragedy of addiction. It was hilarious, grotesque, sincere, grim and sentimental all at once.
T2: Trainspotting picks off 20 years after the original and sees Boyle return as director alongside the original ensemble cast, which includes McGregor, Ewen Bremmer, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle. McGregor plays Mark “Rent Boy” Renton who returns from Amsterdam to Scotland to reconnect with old friends Spud (Bremmer) and Simon (Miller). Within the first 30 minutes of the film, we’re treated to a visually hard-hitting and grotesque scene similar to the kind that made the original famous. Poverty and addiction are presented with a (at times) hyper realistic, morbid humour. Admittedly, the film does not steer too far from the original, and Boyle unashamedly taps into the nostalgia of Trainspotting – which actually works in T2’s favour. However, the nostalgia, except for a few moments, does not seem needlessly tacked on and manages to seamlessly blend into the modern fabric. Moreover T2 provides sufficient new fodder for the uninitiated as well as gratification for those who saw the film in the mid-90s.
The performances are fantastic and convey the awkwardness and aimlessness of former and present deviants trying to adapt and find meaning in a new world. 20 years later, the cast are aging and still aimless and suffering from lack of purpose. Of key note is Carlyle’s excellent job at portraying the sociopathic Franco who is absolutely horrifying, arrogant and vindictive, but manages to provide some genuinely tender moments through the relationship with his son.
With T2, Boyle gives light and contemporary social commentary on immigration, social media and the shifting economic landscape of Scotland, while returning to the previous themes of addiction, violence, promiscuity and nihilism. Most people will probably prefer the original, but as far as sequels go, this was a brilliant addition.
T2 Trainspotting is released nationwide on 27th January 2017. The film is currently showing at Everyman Baker Street, book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for T2: Trainspotting here: