Och mah hen Renton, ye hae bin a naughty loon huvnae ye? (Translation: Oh my dear Renton, you have been a naughty boy haven’t you?) Last time we saw catboy Mark, he had just ripped off his so-called best friends to the tune of sixteen thousand pound.
Fans cried out to see what happened next, with Renton escaping to Amsterdam and Begbie being locked up for a very long time.
Irvine Welsh, author of the Trainspotting novel, did write a sequel. Called Porno, it had an arguably stronger story than the first book. But for the entire twenty years after the film’s release, both actors and director said that a sequel would never be filmed, as they are invariably inferior to the original.
Until very suddenly last year, they announced that a sequel would be filmed.
All the original actors have returned, except for Kevin McKidd whose character died in the first film.
“Begbie is most definitely still a psycho”
Seeing this film, I was lucky enough to almost have the cinema to myself. This meant I could stretch out, laugh out loud, cringe, and admittedly almost shed a tear during a few scenes.
This is an unbelievably good film, and it’s well worth the twenty one year hiatus. Everything a sequel should be. But think of it instead as an epilogue, as it will definitely provide closure to each character’s life up until now, and beyond.
You’ll notice that I haven’t provided many plot details; this is definitely an intentional move on my part. The twenty year wait has been made worthwhile by the promise of a new movie, so never fear. This review doesn’t need a spoiler alert.
Danny Boyle has directed many films since Trainspotting (1996); his style is very much “showing” you the house, rather than “describing” the house. Every scene is his movies serves a purpose; to illustrate a colourful world filled with flawed, larger-than-life characters. And then the techno music starts.
“Boyle puts his stamp on this film from the first scene, with pumping music, very slightly oversaturated colours, and enough unobtrusive CGI and effects to just brush at the Fourth Wall (but never break it)”.
T2 is the same, but even though Boyle paints with a colourful brush, the grittiness from the first film is still here. Lots of violence, a bit of blood, Sick Boy’s covered in tattoos, and Spud still dances to the beat of a different drum when it comes to fashion.
Plenty of Scots swearing too – you will hear pretty much every swear word under the sun and then some. Consider yeself warned, hen!
Spud, Renton, Sick Boy and Franco have all aged. Simon especially is mean. Begbie has had twenty years in prison, but ultimately mellows near the end. Spud is the most pathetic, yet perhaps the only one who has grown.
Renton is perhaps the most well-adjusted of the four, but the love of pop culture he shared with Simon has morphed into a type of arrogance and vanity. He seems to be focussed on absolving himself of guilt, (whether his friends want to forgive him or not), and wastes no time moving on romantically once he reveals his Dutch wife has left him. The common ground that he shared with Simon seems to return when they first reunite, but quickly turns very violent and ultimately poisonous.
“Made me yearn for another twenty minutes at the start showing Renton’s life”.
There’s one scene with Spud where he just looks off camera, not saying a word. He looks virtually the same as in the first film, just heavily wrinkled. It’s a clear and deft visual description of the character; he is the same person, visibly aged by his hard-living youth, but ultimately his friends and family left him. Most of the saddest parts of the film revolve around Spud, and the fact that most people won’t take the time to listen to him and relive the past good times (especially those with Tommy before his death).
Begbie is as unhinged as you would expect, having been sent to prison at the end of Trainspotting. When he crashes into Renton, the reunion is as you would expect. As with Renton, spending a bit more time exploring Francis’ daily life inside would have strengthened the film.
A large part of what made the original Trainspotting so vivid was the music. Loud, sweaty 80’s vinyl. Thumping and shuddering 90’s electronica. And a lot of music serving as a seamless bridge between the two. I own both volumes of the soundtrack on CD, and won’t be parting with them anytime soon.
“Crazy music from Underworld”.
The T2 soundtrack takes this philosophy, and goes off on a very sideways tangent. One of the last songs on the first Trainspotting soundtrack was Inner City Life, a drum and bass track that suggested that the next phase of the Trainspotters lives as they grew older would be quieter, urbane and more reflective. Nothing doing. Like a punch in the face, Prodigy’s remix of Lust for Life feels like it is trying to wrench the boys into the future, but ultimately fails – mirroring the Trainspotter’s failure to leave their demons in the past. Slow Slippy by Underworld is frankly a little disturbing in how it references Born Slippy/NUXX, but works well in underpinning a few key scenes that harken back to the first film (almost a form of leitmotif a la John Williams in the Star Wars soundtracks).
THEMES AND HOMAGES
One major strategy that “origin” films use is the repurposing of archival footage (sometimes along with CGI) for flashbacks. T2 uses this, but in a very restrained manner. There is a few scenes where the main characters remember pivotal scenes from the first film, and also some earlier flashbacks with younger characters. There’s also a nice scene with Begbie (where they have been clever using old and new footage together) which ultimately provides a nice resolution to his story, explaining who he is and also showing him change for the good of his family.
This is a beautiful, worthwhile, hard to watch, funny, different prequel/sequel to Trainspotting. Go and see it.