All aboard the nostalgia train. Danny Boyle is back directing his first sequel. It’d be strange to see follow-ups to Slumdog Millionaire or 127 hours but in the case of Trainspotting, it seems apt to revisit the lives of four former best friends and junkies 20 years on and discover the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The entire cast has returned; Ewen McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle and Johnny Lee Miller, all in different chapters of their lives yet still have a lot in common. They’re all misfits spiralling a drain to their eventual, certain demise,
Even though Spud (Bremner) is the only one still hooked on heroin, the others are degenerates in their own ways; whether it be from petty crimes like home invasions, or from running dodgy brothels out of an old hotel.
What kicks off all the action is McGregor’s Renton returning to the slums of Edinburgh after the passing of his mother, where he reconnects with (most) of his old pals. This is initially tricky, as all are still holding a grudge from their last meeting at the end of the first Trainspotting film – #spoileralert – it’s Renton running off with $16,000.
Old wounds cut deep and they are sorely re-opened as Boyle takes us on a wild ride of nostalgia, exploring the notions of ageing and self-worth. Despite a much more tame run this time round (still a solid R18+ rating though) with less drug abuse and dead children, we are left with a sense of emptiness and asking questions of ourselves and our past – what we’d change and over time what changed us. Friendship, loyalty, morality… a lot of deep social themes veiled by following around four losers all trying to define their place in the modern world.
All encompassing, not too much happens in T2, only set over a couple of weeks. But the pacing and energy is intense and thrilling, so many things happening, interlocking storylines, secrets and schemes it feels like two hours of watching a kettle just seconds from reaching boiling point. Speaking of Boyle, the direction is superb! It was about five minutes in that I realised I had a cheeky grin on my face. It has been quite some time since I’ve watched something I can merely define as ‘tight’!
Clever shot selection, lighting and elusive framing creates the sense of unease, plus a killer soundtrack and non-conventional techniques like switching to POV (point-of-view) shots, or random security camera footage maintains a constant vibe and makes you feel like an active participant of the story, not a passenger.
Blink and you may not realise you are feeling way more emotionally invested in the lives of these dropkicks than you expected, and that is the mastery of the script, the acting, the directing and all-round ‘tight’ production.
With characters this unique, interesting and inept you can’t help but root for them.
Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if Boyle came back again in 20 years to show us what happens next, where it becomes less about feeling out of place, but facing the realities of death.