There are two things that a sequel to Trainspotting
needed to get right in order to be effective. First, the soundtrack had to be kicking. And second, it had to not ignore the events that took place at the end of the first movie. T2 Trainspotting
checks off both boxes.
When we last saw the Trainspotting
boys, Mark Renton (Miles Ahead
's Ewan McGregor) had just ripped off sixteen thousand pounds from his three junkie best friends. Twenty years later, Renton, who has been living in London and working as a computer tech, makes his way back to Scotland to see his mates. First, he visits Spud (Snowpiercer
's Ewen Bremner), now in semi-successful heroin recovery, who, despite leading a fairly miserable life, is happy to see Renton. Next, he looks up Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller from Byzantium
), now going by his given name Simon and making his living as a blackmailer with his prostitute girlfriend Veronika (The Paradise Suite
's Anjela Nedyalkova). After an initial knock-down drag-out confrontation, Simon also falls into his old ways with Renton.
And then there's Begbie (Robert Carlyle from Ravenous
), the angriest of the three about Renton's betrayal. Begbie has spent the last several years in jail, but manages to escape right as Renton arrives in town. Through Simon, Begbie learns that Renton is back, and he begins to plan his revenge on Renton and whoever else is unfortunate enough to get in his way.
For being made twenty years after the original Trainspotting
, T2 Trainspotting
is a pretty seamless transition between the two films. Part of this is because the whole band is back together; not only are the four main cast members back, but director Danny Boyle (127 Hours
) is once again at the helm, screenwriter John Hodge (Shallow Grave
) provides the script, and even Kelly Macdonald (Anna Karenina
) makes a brief appearance as a (very) grown-up Diane. It took a while to get there, but T2 Trainspotting
is the Trainspotting
sequel that fans have wanted, and the one that they deserve.
A huge part of the fun of T2 Trainspotting
is seeing how much the characters have changed, or more accurately, how much they haven't. Renton is, of course, much more responsible after kicking his heroin habit and turning his life around, but Spud, Begbie, and Sick Boy (er, excuse me, Simon) are the same cats from the first movies, just with a little less hair and a lot more wrinkles. Sick Boy's girl, Veronika, plays the role that Diane played in the first film, part intelligent voice of reason and part cunning manipulator, but always a step ahead of the guys and seemingly watching them from the outside more than participating in their antics.
It's no surprise that all of those antics build to an inevitable confrontation between Renton and Begbie, and once it gets there, the film does sputter out a little bit. Luckily, Boyle seems to know this, so he doesn't let his movie overstay its welcome; just as the audience starts to feel fatigued, Boyle brings them home, and in a way that could only be done in a Trainspotting
While it does rely heavily on the first movie, T2 Trainspotting
explains enough of the backstory so that new viewers won't be alienated too badly. There are plenty of clever winks and nods to the original, however, so enjoyment will be maximized if one is familiar with Trainspotting
. Whether you've seen Trainspotting
before or not, by the end, T2 Trainspotting
will make you want to watch it (again). Spending a couple of hours with these characters will make you want to find out (or revisit, if that's the case) what brought them to where they are.
The music in the original Trainspotting
was a home run. So, as mentioned earlier, one of the elements that had to be in place for a sequel to be effective was going to be the soundtrack. And in place it is. The music in T2 Trainspotting
is a mixture of classic tunes and new stuff, with a few great surprises along the way. As the guys make their way around their stomping grounds, they are accompanied by songs from their youth by The Clash, Blondie, Queen, and Run-DMC. To keep things sounding modern, there are a number of current songs in the film from cool artists like Scottish hip-hop popsters Young Fathers and British electronic music wizards Underworld. And then, of course, there are throwbacks to the music of the first film, like a Prodigy remix of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" and an Underworld reworking of their own "Born Slippy (NUXX)." There are even a few strains of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" (performed by Underworld's Rick Smith) sprinkled over an early scene. The soundtrack for T2 Trainspotting
is fantastic, just as the soundtrack for a Trainspotting
movie should be.
Danny Boyle has a very distinct directorial flair, and he runs full-speed with it in T2 Trainspotting
, which is why it's such a stylistically coherent sequel. Boyle interweaves footage from Trainspotting
in, juxtaposing it with similar shots and sequences in T2 Trainspotting
, showing that this is another chapter in the lives of these four friends without resorting to corny flashbacks. Boyle even went so far as to find four little kids (five if you count Tommy, absent from this movie for obvious reasons if you've seen the first) who look like the principals and shot home movie clips of them, showing the gang during younger, simpler days. Of course, Boyle couldn't help but toss in some of that stutter-freeze-frame stuff during some of the action sequences, but it's fairly restrained and not nearly as annoying as it could have been. With T2 Trainspotting
, Danny Boyle makes a Trainspotting
movie as only he can.