T2 Trainspotting (2017)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Shirley Henderson, Anjela Nedyalkova
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: John Hodge
Rating: R Running Time: 1 hr 57 min.
Back in 1996 when Trainspotting hit the theaters, I was 24. I wasn’t a drug user (unless you count alcohol), but this tale of excess, mates, laughs, and betrayal, most certainly resonated. This was a film about a generation, my generation, and in a roundabout way, it declared there was light at the end of the tunnel as long as we wanted to find it. Trainspotting was also very cool, and very quotable. It was massively entertaining.
Twenty years later, we’re all back. T2: Trainspotting checks in with our mates to see what everyone’s been up to, and unfortunately it isn’t good news. Whereas I had moved on, settled down, and achieved a somewhat stable life, my mates were still struggling. They were bogged down by past regrets, and an aching nostalgia for their glory days. These characters that I once related to were now strangers, and much of the first half of the movie left me feeling sorry for people pinned down under the weight of their own destructive lifestyles.
T2: Trainspotting then, for me, was a fascinating experience, but not an entertaining one. This was ugly in places, and sad. It was hard to watch Renton (Ewan McGregor), Begbie (Robert Caryle), and Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) reunite unchanged, and repeat old mistakes. They get moments to reflect on their lives, but seem to have learned nothing. Only Spud (Ewen Bremner) manages to find a path forward, and his contribution to the story is by far the best reason to sit through this.
This film appeals on a nostalgic level (the best bits in T1 were saluted), but it isn’t out to be a reboot of the original. It’s cognizant of its time away, and everyone involved seems motivated to tell the most appropriate story given the time, place, and players in the game. It has some genuine moments of quality, but it was never going to be as cool as the original.
The soundtrack, heavily edited and never allowed to play for more than a few seconds, for me, demonstrates this sentiment. The first film wasn’t about much, and thumped along to a soundtrack album we all wanted to own. It followed the misadventures of absolute losers, but we were young idiots too so it was okay to relate.
The experience of watching T2 is nothing like that. This is a grim, mostly cautionary tale, where we’re faced with some hard truths. Some of us won’t change, and some of us will always struggle with the cards we’ve been dealt with (usually by bad parents and/or bad friends). This film explores the worst in us and it isn’t pretty, but also encourages you to carry on, and choose life.