Directed By: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 4.5/5 tins of tennents
It’s difficult to explain to others how excited I was for a sequel to a film about heroin addiction and the nihilism of youth culture and yet 20 years later we have a sequel to the hard-hitting but brilliant Trainspotting. My first time seeing Trainspotting was at a very young age (I reckon I was 12) and it had a profound effect on me as I was haunted by the film’s darker elements and at the same time amused with the lunacy of these adolescents lives.
For years Danny Boyle has circled the idea of a follow-up to his breakout film as the original was based on a novel and Boyle was interested in the second book Porno. The first film established Danny Boyle as one of Britain’s greatest directors as well as being one of the island’s most influential films. Boyle wonderfully crafted a surreal, nihilistic and grim portrayal of youth culture in Edinburgh in the 90’s, which thread the fine line between horror and comedy. Trainspotting encapsulated the anarchy of youth in revolt and the cynicism of those without much of a future.
20 years later and Boyle still retains the same cynicism just this time the characters no longer have their youth. 20 years later Mark Renton returns to the city he escaped in the first film and decides to take a step down memory lane and meet up with his old crew. Mark is looking well, his clothes clean and trendy and he’s in great shape for his age, he truly found a life for himself. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for his old mates; Spud is still and addict who almost got his life together but spiraled back into addiction, Begby is in jail where he rightfully belongs although it has done nothing to lessen his violent outbursts. Perhaps most depressing of all is Sickboy who finds himself embittered and exactly where he was in the first he’s just traded heroin for coke, he’s running a manky old pub and his cons are far more sinister than before.
Nostalgia is the biggest theme of the film as our central characters constantly reminisce on old times and are at their happiest reliving old stories. It’s a very meta way for Boyle to both justify his sequel as well as parody it. “You’re a tourist in your own childhood” Sickboy announces to Renton as he explains the futility of nostalgia and how these memories are never as shiny as one remembers them. Soon for Renton he finds that living in the past can lead to history repeating itself as in true Trainspotting fashion we find out Renton isn’t as successful as he lets on.
Trainspotting 2 certainly lightens up on the shock value of the first but it certainly loses none of the originals lunacy. Both films are revel in pitch black dark comedy with laughs galore. There’s plenty of piss, puke, drugs, nudity (and not the kind you’d want) and violence to establish the film as a true sequel to the original. Boyle brings his mind-bending and intoxicating visuals to keep your head spinning and just on the fringe of reality.
While it never quite reaches the heights of the first film, Trainspotting 2 feels like a love letter to fans of the original which has aged with its original audience. Boyle mocks our insecurities as we hold onto nostalgic memories of the past as they were some kind of golden moments in our lives, while also reminding us that while the present may seem futile we should embrace the chaos and lunacy and dares us to choose life.