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T2 Trainspotting: Movie Review

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The boys are back in town!  Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie, and Spud return in Danny Boyle’s long awaited sequel to Trainspotting, and while Edinburgh may have moved on toward gentrification and modernization, the boys are still coming to terms with the demons of their past.

Twenty years have passed since the heroin deal that was supposed to set them all up for life saw Mark Renton take the money and run, leaving his motley crew of junkies, petty thieves, and best friends reeling with betrayal.  Health problems and personal issues bring about his return to Edinburgh.  As Renton comes home to face his demons, he finds Spud in a spiral of self-destruction and loathing, still dealing with the heroin addiction that he himself overcame two decades ago.  Sick Boy has continued to move from one con to another eeking out a living and Begbie, as can be expected, has landed himself a lengthy prison sentence. As Renton reconnects with the people and places of his past, he finds himself effectively back right where he left off;  wrapped up in a money making scheme with Spud and Sick Boy, as they try to con their way toward opening a brothel, for Sick boys much younger kind of girlfriend, Veronika.  But just as everything seems to be going according to plan and the guys seem to be reconciling, Begbie finds a way to break out of prison.  It’s only a matter of time before he and Renton’s paths inevitably cross and if there’s one thing that can be said about Frank Begbie, it’s that he’s never been known to be the forgiving type.

Trainspotting 2 is one of the best sequels that I’ve ever seen.  I was very apprehensive about it upon hearing that they were making a sequel at all, let alone so many years later, but as a sequel it is near perfect, and the acting performances contribute greatly to its success.  The original Trainspotting has been one of my favorite films since the first time that I saw it when I was still in high school. That being said, I’ve seen it more times that I am willing to admit to, and it would be completely unacceptable for the sequel to exist if the performers were incapable of recreating the iconic characters that they brought to life 2 decades ago and helped make the film the cult classic that it became.  Luckily, that isn’t the case at all.  Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle are perfect.  It’s pretty much impossible to tell that it’s been 20 years since they played, Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie.  It’s impressive how effortless it seems to have been for them to slip on those characters with such a long period of time between films.  They simply leave no traces or evidence that they’ve ever been anybody else but those characters.  Sure, the characters aren’t exactly the same as they were in the original.  They’ve been weighed down by the melancholy of middle age and regret, but it’s those changes that imbue them with a sense of authenticity.  When we meet Spud, we’re not meeting the timid, giggly, and care free junkie, that we already know.  Instead, we’re meeting a broken man, who is estranged from his family, still in the woes of drug addiction, weary of scoring heroin from people half his age, but who still manages to show us glimpses of the loveable old Spud that we want to come out on top in the end.

In fact, it’s not just the characters that are recaptured masterfully.  Director Danny Boyle, somehow manages to recapture the components of the original film that made it a unique and brilliant piece of cinema.  Like the original, T2 is fast paced, vibrant, quick witted, and enhanced tenfold by its selective soundtrack.  Every song, enhances the scene in which it takes place.  A song is never just there as filler.  It always has a purpose.  And like its predecessor, the cinematography leaves nothing to be desired.  Capturing striking urban compositions reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, and combining them with small glimpses of the Scottish countryside, creates a distinctive visual metaphor for entrapment and urban isolation, and the idea that time has passed these characters by.

It’s very much a film about nostalgia.  There’s no doubt about that, but it plays both sides of the coin, depicting both the good and the bad.  When Sick Boy, Spud, and Renton venture out to the countryside to pay a long overdue tribute to Tommy, Sick Boy confronts Renton about what they’re actually doing there, insisting the it’s nostalgia that brings them there, and accusing him of being, “a tourist” in his own youth.  And that’s the line that the film tows.  When Renton returns to perform his mea culpa’s, he’s not only coming home to a location, but to an identity.  He and Sick boy pick up right where they left off 20 years before, despite the fact that he had gotten away, gotten off of smack, and been living a decent, albeit bland, existence.  It entertains the notion that nostalgia can be its own addiction, while at the same time embracing it in moderation.  It’s a film that refuses to pretend that it isn’t a sequel but it doesn’t wallow in a complete dependency of that nostalgia in order to justify its existence either.

T2 Trainspotting
Director:  Danny Boyle
Studio:  Sony Pictures
Genre:  Drama
MPAA:  R
Release Date:  March 17th, 2017
Author:  Angela Colgan
Angela Colgan Angela Colgan is a San Diego native who recently graduated from college with a double major in Visual Arts Media with a film emphasis and History with an emphasis in war, revolution, and social change. She is currently employed at a local start up video production company, working on a few short online comedy series’ that will eventually launch on their own internet television website. A fan of movies since a very early age, Angela has been appreciating, arguing about, and reviewing films amongst family and friends her entire life, often much to their annoyance. A fan of all genres of film, she is particularly a fan of old movie classics, horror films in all of their different manifestations, and one-liner filled action romps from the late 1980’s and early 90’s. She hopes to work in the commercial film industry in the near future in either post-production editing, or sound design.

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