T2 Trainspotting - This Movie Rocks In A Whole Other Way Than Before
Dir Danny Boyle
Starring Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Kelly MacDonald, Anjela Nedyalkova
“You’re a tourist in your own youth” (Sick Boy, 2017) That was always the worry of Danny Boyle and co’s return to the Land Of Skag over two decades later. And it’s fair to say that T1 does cast a long shadow over this new movie. But it’s an appropriate shadow for a film that has replaced the sheer vibrancy of its first outing with an almost meditative look at the way the world has moved on almost around these characters, if not leaving them behind entirely, then certainly leaving them adrift.
Sick Boy once posited the idea that “we all get older and then we cannae hack it anymore”, whether you’re Sean Connery or Mark Renton. And that is the sad reality of this follow up – not in terms of the film itself thankfully, but in terms of where it finds it four central characters.
The strengths of T2 lie in the way that Boyle and his comrades embrace this unsettling response to where they find themselves. They choose life – but life doesn’t seem to have chosen them back.
In a film that is designed to look back, we begin with Renton’s return to Edinburgh, twenty years after he stole the drug deal money from his mates. He’s been in Amsterdam, Sick Boy runs a derelict pub with a side line in sexual blackmail and a huge fondness for cocaine, Spud is still a junkie but now hitting that suicidal path, and Begbie, well, he’s as mad as ever, has spent the intervening years inside and by now should be officially proclaimed Scotland’s King Of The C-Bomb. All of them in their own way have spent their inbetween days holding on to Renton’s betrayal as the defining moment in the ruination of their respective lives. And when Begbie breaks out of jail, and learns Mark is back in town, you just know things aren’t going to get any better.
T2 – inevitably and consciously – lacks the drive and pure adrenalized hit of Boyle’s earlier movie. It certainly lacks the era-defining power of its original Britpop-in-aspic soundtrack. But it has to. Music has moved on, just as the world has and where it once defined people’s lives, now it more often or not just fills in the background noise. Boyle and his team understand these differences and this movie seeks to embrace them, even in the inherent uncomfortable nature of doing so. For all its dead babies and Lou Reed-soundtracked overdoses, Trainspotting was never really a bleak movie. It found its own remarkable, youthful energy in every experience it depicted. It was, in its own way, joyful. And that is why it endures.
T2 by comparison is a remarkably bleak film, which becomes its own strength. (It probably helps if you’re a middle-aged man when you’re watching this.) It looks into the abyss of lives wasted and really comes up with very little in the way of hope. Not to say there aren’t some very funny moments, and some deeply satisfying personal reconciliations. But ultimately this is Leonard Cohen asking “You Want It Darker?” and then some.
Which is why it remains a remarkable film, one that will stay with you long after that first viewing and will probably become more confortable to face up to on repeated watches. All of which is brilliantly encapsulated in the film’s final shot – a moment that manages to straddle both sheer exuberance and complete tragedy all in one glorious moment.
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