T2: TRAINSPOTTING. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Anjela Nedyalkova. Directed by Danny Boyle. Rated R18+. Restricted. (High impact themes, coarse language and drug use). 117 min.
This British drama is based loosely on the characters created by Irvine Welsh in two of his novels: "Trainspotting" (1993), and "Porno" (2002).
The film is a sequel to the 1996 movie, "Trainspotting", which is about four young drug addicts, misspending their youth in Edinburgh at a time of political and social upheaval. "Trainspotting" was seen as subversive cinema by some, and admired as trail-blazing by others. It was regarded as a cult classic when it was made and was ranked as one of the top ten British movies of all time. The 1996 movie was for adults only, and the 2016 sequel carries the same restricted classification.
This film has the same Director (Danny Boyle) as the 1996 film, and uses four of the main actors from the original ensemble cast. Twenty years after the original film, Boyle's sequel integrates many scenes from the 1996 movie, and the original film is constantly before the viewer. Doyle, however, wanted the original cast to age so that he could present them in his sequel as living characters, visibly affected by the physical, psychological, and social-political ravages of time.
In the film, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) finds his way back to Edinburgh to renew contact with Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), and Daniel "Spud" Murphy (Ewen Bremner). He is keen, however, to avoid the psychopathic Francis "Franco" Begbie (Robert Carlyle), because Begbie (like the others) feels personally betrayed. After betrayal of "his best friends", Renton tried to forge a new life in Amsterdam; Begbie served time in jail for murder and has escaped from prison; Williamson has found a new partner in crime in Bulgarian prostitute, Veronika Kovach (Anjela Nedyalkova); and Murphy is trying unsuccessfully to survive without cocaine. All four men share a common past, and are caught up in their personal conflicts with each other. Franco in particular wants violent revenge on Mark for absconding with money he thinks was his, and each of them is massively insecure about what the future holds. All of them wonder "where did it all go wrong".
The major theme lying at the the centre of the movie is the insecurity of middle age, following the self-destructive pleasures experienced in youth. In the sequel, the four engage frustratingly in old practices - they remain the victims of drugs and alcohol; they fight society and reject their loved ones; and they continue to act without sexual restraint. But they realise sorrowfully, and with regret, that they are vulnerable. They are sad people, in despair. Youth has been lost, and they share a vulnerability that cements a friendship among them, which fluctuates between affection and rivalry.
The movie is wonderfully scripted to convey personal and social angst; human interaction for Mark Renton, for example, seems "nothing more (to him) than data". The film creates a sense of nostalgia vividly. Rapid-fire editing, quality cinematography and acting, and an atmospheric musical soundtrack reinforce the force of the sequel, which combines pathos with nostalgia skilfully.
Twenty years down the track, one might ask, which is the better movie - the original or its sequel? Both illustrate creative film-making. This movie shocks, but not as much as the original, and is less confronting though it punches heavily. Both the sequel and the original are linked seamlessly together. The sequel's strong sense of melancholy, delivered with dark humour, dramatically shows the effect of time on the four main characters' feelings, behaviour, and emotions, and the thriller- plot-device of "getting even" helps the sequel to stand apart from its predecessor. The tone of the film preserves the 1996 movie's energy and vitality, but viewers beware. Aspects of the content of the sequel are potentially offensive, and the film is still strictly only for adult viewing.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released February 23rd., 2017