“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?” – Mark Renton in Trainspotting (1996)
Twenty years after choosing life, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns home to Edinburgh from self imposed exile. Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in prison. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still a fucked up skaghead,seperated from his wife. Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) is, well, Sick Boy. Still scamming, hustling and being a genuine manipulative sociopath. And Diane (Kelly MacDonald), in a brief cameo, seems to be doing quite well for herself.
With the return of director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge returning with the original cast, they have created a brilliant sequel. As an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Porno (as well as including some other elements from the original Trainspotting novel that were not in the first film), it is quite good in that it’s not 1:1, but keeps the core character relationships and plot beats intact, as well as borrowing many scenes and reworking them so that they fit the film and feel fresh (such as the scene in the bathroom stall or the Begbie=Evil=Fear sequence), even for those of us who have read the novels. The focus on the character relationships of the core characters and them dealing with their pasts of drug addiction, betrayal, petty crime and violence.
They reminiscence about their youth and their regrets (like when Renton is explaining ‘choose life’ to Veronica, a character loosely based on Nikke Fuller-Smith from Porno) and do their best to make it in a world that has changed so much when they have not. We also see Begbie, who remains a looming and terrifying presence, who returns to a son that is unlike him in every way and through it, although very briefly, we see a softer side of Begbie. The trials and tribulations of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie are compelling stuff that succeeds in making you feel a wide range of emotions. You might even feel like your heart has been warmed at a few point, which is something I never thought I’d say about this series considering the amount of obscenity, crime and depravity the core characters engage in during the films and novels. You might even be driven close to tears, or at least I was, considering the attachments I had towards the characters and the climax of the film will have you, to use a cliche’: on the edge of your seat.
Stylistically, this film is similar to the original yet also wildly different. It is about 30 minutes longer than the original, it has a generally slower pace that matches the themes of the film, Danny Boyle’s style has a strong presence and the lighting is often superb,reminiscent of some of his more recent films, such as Trance. In regards to the comedic elements, there are still quite a few hilarious and well crafted moments, but there’s no gut busting funny gross out sequences, such as the Traditional Sunday Breakfast scene. They add the right amounts of levity, adding to the emotional texture of the film. Flashbacks to the original film are also used to great effect and the music is a mixture of tracks from the original soundtrack and plenty of new ones, which are perfectly utilised to enhance the emotional register of the sequences they’re used. And as a whole add to the overall theme of changing times.
T2: Trainspotting, while not as funny as the original is both a great sequel to a classic and adaptation, whose characters are compelling and the film as a whole is tragic and reflective, and at times hilarious. It leans heavily on the original film, so if you haven’t seen that or it’s been a while, watch it first. Fans of the novels will also get a bit more out of it, not only emotionally, but certain sequences, such as the 1690 sequence, will be enhanced. It is also a genuinely moving film and maintains Danny Boyle’s position as one of Britain’s best modern feature film directors.