T2: Trainspotting (aka Trainspotting 2) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
It’s been twenty years since Ewan McGregor gave his rant about choosing life. Now there’s much more to choose from in the 21st century. There’s social media, streaming video, memes, conspiracy theories, culture wars, news hysteria, etc. There’s so much to choose from that rather than tap into any one of these cultural milestones to push the characters through after twenty years, Danny Boyle’s T2: Trainspotting pigs out by diving face first into a new Edinborough of getting revenge and tripping out. It may never amount to as much as the first film, but still has a fun time in its world both familiar and surreal.
McGregor returns to the role of Mark, returning to Edinburgh after that special life he dreamed about in Amsterdam turned out to be not so special. All his old friends and enemies are still there, waiting to either seek his help or stab him in the back (or both). Spud (Ewen Bremner) still finds himself addicted to heroin, but is desperate to find his way out of this hole for the family he cannot see. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) now runs a pub, but wants more out of life as he tries to raise enough funds for his own brothel. Mark is more than willing to help both of his childhood friends achieve their goals, hoping he can find a better life on his old stomping grounds. The drugs certainly help at least.
Meanwhile, the crooked Franco (Robert Carlyle) has just escaped from prison and takes aim at getting revenge on the collective that put him in prison. Namely, he wants Mark for deceiving him. Did you forget what Mark did in the previous movie? Don’t worry; the movie will bring this up several times. Did you not even see the first Trainspotting? Don’t worry; there are plenty of scenes lifted from the previous picture to showcase most of the call-backs.
As with other movie sequels set about two decades after their predecessors, this is a very nostalgic film that banks on plenty of familiar scenes. Remember that moment when McGregor plops on the hood of a car mid-chase and smiles at the driver? You’ll see that again. Remember McGregor’s unforgettable opening about what to choose in life? Have some more of that rant. Oh, and we certainly can’t forget the moment where all the boys stand at the train tracks.
Despite the movie’s need to recycle its scenes, there’s a special key to making all this engaging: this is a sequel that acknowledges its own nostalgia. There are several scenes where the characters will start having flashes back to their schoolyard days, remembering a time when they were more innocent and bitter feuds were over more trivial matters. They also don’t shy away from recognizing the darker elements of their past, relating to how nostalgia can refer to that of an old wound. There’s a brilliant moment between Mark and Sick Boy have an argument about the past, bringing up unshakable events of their pasts that shouldn’t be forgotten. After all, it’s a little tough to forget Sick Boy’s infant son dying from neglect and the horrific vision that follows.
While still familiar in its trippy visuals and iconic moments, T2 does feel refreshing for never resting on an easy story. The new scheme of Sick Boy is a clever enough device to pull the characters along, the freaky hallucinations of committing suicide are intoxicating and the general style is still just as fast and experimental as it always was. There are a handful of amazing scenes as when Mark and Sick Boy sing their way out of a bar, Spud envisions his own death and Franco speaks with an accent so thick it’s hilarious to watch the stylish subtitles keep up.
My one major gripe with the picture is that it never felt as though it were touching on some grander aspect of commenting on society the way the first film did. I could sense bubbling underneath the surface of nearly every scene, the way Mark brings up his age and Franco finds himself frustrated with the son who wouldn’t follow him. The moment where Mark starts up his “choose life” rant could have been that moment when the movie finally reaches an epoch of drug culture that has shifted and contorted for a new century of uncertainty. But the scene ends with him casually asking about sex, implying that his rantings are just BS talk in between recreation. Oh well; it’s still a worthy trip, but not as deep as it could have been.