This movie shouldn’t exist. It shouldn’t work. It’s great.
There’s a type of movie that internet film nerds refer to as a “legacyquel”. This term applies to a sequel that is released many years after the original, in which the original actors play their original roles. When this idea fails, like the recent Independence Day movie, which brought back a dead character with a flimsy explanation, it can fail spectacularly, but when it succeeds, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens does, we can celebrate the return of our favorite characters in an entirely new story line. T2: Trainspotting is one of the latter instances.
The announcement of this movie, which would bring back the four main characters from Danny Boyle’s 1996 original, was met with many groans, but then the details started leaking out, and it started to sound promising. The original director, screenwriter (John Hodge), and much of the cast would be returning. But, was this effort only going to be a rehash to play on audience’s nostalgia?
Well, sort of. That, however, ends up being the point of it all. Do people spend too much time feeling nostalgic for a past that won’t return, thus keeping them from growing as people? When old friends get together after many years, why do they slide back into the same old habits? Can the passage of time allow for forgiveness? Are we meant to have the same patterns occur in our lives over and over again?
Before you go thinking this movie is going to be a boring philosophical treatise, I should tell you that T2 (I do think that naming it the same as a classic film sequel was done purposefully as some sort of commentary on sequels) is a rip-roaring, action-packed, very funny movie full of striking visuals, energetic music, and a few scenes that burst off the screen with crackling ebullience. This film will remind you, yet again, that Danny Boyle is basically incapable of making a boring movie, and he has great material to work with here from screenwriter John Hodge, who’s working from material from the original Irvine Welsh novel and its sequel, Porno.
Ewen McGregor’s Mark Renton returns to Edinburgh nearly 20 years after stealing all the money from the drug deal at the end of the first movie. Why he’s come back isn’t quite clear at first, but he’s living what seems to be a successful life. Each of the original friends involved reacts very differently to this: Spud (Ewen Bremner) feels that being left four thousand quid helped turn him into a lifelong junkie, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), now using his real name of Simon, has his eyes on ruining Mark’s life, while Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has his eyes on ending it. We spend a fair amount of time with all of these characters, and see how the 20 years have taken their toll on each of them.
Thrown into the mix is Simon’s partner in crime, Veronika, played with charm by relative newcomer Anjela Nedyalkova. She settles in as a bit of a third wheel to the relationship between Ewen McGregor’s Mark and Jonny Lee Miller’s Simon, who have the breezy chemistry of reunited best friends. The two of them are fantastic together, and, frankly, I would watch T3, T4 or however many T’s this crew would make, just to see these two actors work together.
A recent viewing of the original Trainspotting would be recommended, although if you are very familiar with the movie, a quick plot review may help. There are quite a few musical and visual callbacks to the original film, and catching them is part of the fun. T2 will constantly ask you if you’re liking something because you liked the thing you liked before, or if you are liking the new thing because of its own merits. This new film has enough merits to say yes to both questions.
T2: Trainspotting opens in Bay Area theaters today. It is rated ‘R’ for drug use (not nearly as much as the original), language throughout (yep), strong sexual content (but not that much), graphic nudity (including some very funny stuff), and some violence (a wee bit here and there).