Aside from the travesty that T2 Trainspotting reappropriated the title of arguably the greatest sequel in the history of cinema, it is a pretty satisfying follow-up to the 1996 cult hit, a natural progression. Though it may not be as frenetic as its predecessor, what is has now is maturity natural to the theme of aging it tackles. It presents nostalgia as the opiate middle-agers can’t let go off. Ultimately, it’s a film about breaking free from the past, reigniting life, moving forward.
Set 20 years after the original, T2 Trainspotting sees the reunion, both off- and on-screen, of Ewan McGregor‘s Renton and his old gang of ne’er-do-wells whom he double-crossed as of the events of the first film. Naturally, not everyone takes his return too well. Some want him dead, some want him to suffer, some just want him to be a friend again. Soon, they are back to how they were, pulling off get-rich schemes, living like immortals — hijinks ensue, the lust for life is rekindled.
T2 Trainspotting is a sequel that is not for the uninitiated. As I mentioned, it feeds on nostalgia not only in its premise of revisiting the old but also in terms of what it as a film requires to be properly enjoyed. The film hosts numerous callbacks — from small references, to plot points, to projecting clips from the first film in the background. As much as the characters of T2 are in love with who they were 20 years prior, the same could be said of the sequel itself. The film is in love with what it was in the 1990s. It recalls fondly the zeitgeist, the energy it had, its subversiveness. And yet even amidst Director Danny Boyle‘s use of fast cuts and dutch angles to portray “edginess,” this film is still the weathered-out rockstar, the “tourist of its own past” as the Jonny Lee Miller‘s Sick Boy puts it. But I think this is just what the film sets out to do. It doesn’t want to be a rehash of the old, it wants to be a reflection. Imagine it as one of those “Where Are They Now?” documentaries — regardless of whether the characters have hit it high or are now down in their dumps (mostly this), the individual stories will always contain a bit of regret, a bit of current struggle. These automatically connect to the viewer because he or she has seen the contrast of what was once was and what is of now. This is a revisit that is both funny and energetic, yet also haunting and sad, in a world-weary kind of way.
Reliving the past isn’t all grim and dour though, T2 also showcases the high one can get by letting go of present confines, just winging it again without a care in the world. Actually the highlights of the film in my opinion are when that old energy Renton and Sick Boy had in the past is reignited. Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller present just how much chemistry they have, it’s the kind of interaction you wished they showcased more often. From the kinetic bar brawl they engage in — an unleashing of 20 years worth of feelings of resentment and betrayal — to their impromptu song number “No More Catholics Left,” these two are pure dynamite when they share the screen. They are mates on a rush, making up for lost time. Ewan Macgregor’s zealed-up smile as he once again slams onto windshield (a re-do of the original’s opening scene) says it all.
You can’t say any less about the rest of the gang either. Ewen Bremner‘s Spud is still ever as sweet and sympathetic, being given the best lines in the film. While Robert Carlyle‘s Begbie is now even more psychopathic than ever, a great white shark out for blood (he’s not all bad though, he has scenes that are pretty poignant). The mesh of character from this ensemble is what lends great energy to the film. Getting them all back together, getting them all to share the room. This reunion is the kind of treat old fans will chew right up. It’s just a shame though that Kelly McDonald’s role (Renton’s underage girlfriend in the first film) has been reduced to that of a glorified cameo in this sequel.
The synopsis says it best, “sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger” — this is the kind of medley the sequel delivers. It may not be as fresh nor thrilling as before, but again that’s what comes with age. You gain substance, you swap the YOLO-life for self-reflection. Don’t worry though, there is still enough to satiate what you’ve longed for in a Trainspotting sequel. The film delivers just the right amount of feels to make you want to run down streets along to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” again.
T2 Trainspotting is exclusively screening at Ayala Malls – Glorietta and Trinoma starting March 1.