Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Kelly McDonald, Shirley Henderson

Trainspotting was a low budget film about five friends with a massive drug addiction that became a wacky cult classic. Twenty years later, the cast has reunited to see where these troubled men are at in life. Ewan McGregor is front and center as Mark Renton who returns home to Edinburgh after his mother dies. He’s led a clean and sober life in Amsterdam since the events of the first film, which ended with him stealing thousands of dollars from his friends. His other three friends, Spud (Bremner), Simon (Miller), and Begbie (Carlyle), have not fared so well. Begbie has recently escaped from jail after his parole was denied. Spud loses his job and his longtime girlfriend when he can’t quit his addictions. While still an addict himself, Simon owns and runs a bar looking to remodel the upstairs into a brothel. Renton’s reunion with Spud comes just in time to save his life and reignite their friendship. Simon’s a bit leery to take Renton in but their history runs deeper than a sudden want for revenge. The only reunion that poses a problem for Renton is with Begbie. His anger and explosive tendencies don’t bode well when he realizes Renton’s in town. He’s been holding a massive grudge all these years later that leads to a series of chase sequences that are filled with the Trainspotting style humor and aggression.

I’m still scratching my head a bit at the thought of giving Trainspotting a sequel. It was so unique and fresh in its 1996 debut as it explored the lives of twenty-somethings dealing with severe drug addiction. I watched it recently to prep for this sequel, and it still holds up. The question remained as to how you would make a sequel to this kind of story without rehashing the entire first movie. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) and original screenwriter John Hodge are back for this one which is only loosely inspired by author Irvine Welsh’s sequel, Porno. T2 works in tandem with the first film, so make sure to brush up as it relies heavily on using flashbacks. The ending of the first film provides a catalyst for how the group views Ewan McGregor’s character. You’d feel pretty lost if you haven’t seen it or don’t know it very well. At one point Simon says to Renton, “Nostalgia. That’s why you’re here.” Nostalgia plays a big part of the conversations at hand between the characters and will definitely appeal to fans of the first film looking to return to these characters. The style and dark sense of humor are still intact even if it’s not a whiz-bang fast, trippy ride like the first. Boyle uses his typical style of having multiple frames on screen at the same time and throws out some text scrolling across the screen at the beginning when the dialects are so thick you can’t make out what the characters are saying.

The sequel acts as a meditation on old friendships and how hurt relationships can resurface. The characters have grown up and slowed down some so the movie reflects their evolution. All four of the main characters are at various stages in life. Some have moved on for the better, while others continue to struggle with addiction and anger. With Renton being the only one that is sober, you have to wonder if that only happened because he left for Amsterdam. Are the others still battling with their demons because they never left Scotland? Maybe Renton’s success is money based. He stole thousands of dollars which could have aided in his recovery as opposed to the other guys who are still struggling to get by. Is this pure coincidence or are Boyle and Hodge commenting on how the state of our financial and living environments can play in the road to recovery?

T2 Trainspotting reunites Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Ewen Bremner to these extremely disturbed characters. Kelly McDonald also makes a cameo as Diane who is now a lawyer. The film includes a touching tribute to the character of Tommy, played by Kevin McKidd, who died in the first film. The chemistry in the cast is undeniable and it’s a fun to see them getting into all sorts of trouble. McGregor is having a great year so far with his take on Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast and will be leading the new season of FX’s Fargo. Robert Carlyle is back in full piss and vinegar mode as Begbie who’s as crazy as ever. It’s a stark contrast in look and tone for him given his recent work as Rumpelstiltskin on ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

Like many of these other reunion style movies, it’s fun and nostalgic to return to this world for two hours. It’s not the kind of movie that sits with you for days afterward or is all that unique like the first. Then again, it doesn’t set out to be. I found myself pleasantly surprised Boyle and company were able to pull it off. Fans of the first film will no doubt enjoy this semi-trippy ride. These characters are older now, and they can’t party like they used to when they were in their twenties. Sound familiar?

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? A surprisingly touching and sincere return to these four unique characters.


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