As controversial as it may be to not hold Trainspotting in astronomically high acclaim, I find myself in a minority that believes the sixteen-year wait between first and second movie was not only worth it, but also that the length of time between these two films led to a sequel that was stronger than the original product. Returning to the life of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) as he takes a nostalgic trip through Scotland, reminiscing, encountering and rekindling relationships with former friends and family, T2 Trainspotting is a bittersweet culmination to many stories of Irvine Welsh.
Flexing its bigger budget with style, T2 Trainspotting is a colourful mixture of genuinely impressive dialogue supported by some unique direction. I’ve had my differences with director Danny Boyle in the past, but here he manages to ditch the drab grey tones of his earlier works to impose a modernisation of the characters we find ourselves so fond of. Begbie, Spud, Sick Boy and Renton are all back and under a completely different limelight. The startling highs of the first film are nowhere to be found, the characters have aged tremendously and are dealing with the many failings they found in their youth.
It’s a film of self-reflection, one of the few films I can think of that wears its nostalgia goggles not with pride, but with shame. Each of our characters leads a life they no longer feel a part of, a dreary existence held together by old grudges, new friendships and farcical encounters. The sharp bite of the original screenplay is kept intact, translating over to a script with harder-hitting narratives, a fresh-faced focus and a redemptive arc like no other. It’s packaged very neatly, the pacing is on point, and it’s surprising how little we see the four together at one time. It’s a nice shift in gear, continuing on from the first film with a necessary self-awareness. That reflection and passing of time is nicely shown through a maturity of camera work, colour and direction on Boyle’s part, but it’s found thoroughly within the cast as well.
My worry for most endeavours in creating sequels is that, the time away from a role can take its toll on an actor. Years have passed since they first donned what was an extremely popular role, one so culturally embedded in our society that it’d be nigh on impossible not to have at least one disaster. T2 Trainspotting scrapes through extremely clean, giving our main four characters the conclusion they have come to deserve. Each character shows clear signs of growth, mixed in with some great comedic moments and more than a handful of tear-jerking scenes that call back to the previous film and the foggy gap in between.
Happy endings are mere fiction, and T2 Trainspotting toils in its acceptance of putting off the inevitable. Getting older, acting with responsibility, choosing life. A scary portrayal of how it doesn’t get any easier, everything just stagnates. A far superior sequel to the plucky youth of the first film, with a great maturity, found among the cast, crew and camera work. Ditching the free spirit and eclectic nature of the dingy Scottish streets, T2 Trainspotting presents a bright, colourful surrounding with characters that feel their youth slipping away from them, one of the greatest examples of growth between films available.