XXY Reviews: T2 Trainspotting by Danny Boyle

XXY Reviews: T2 Trainspotting by Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle’s original 1996 Trainspotting was social realism at its finest, so its highly anticipated sequel, T2 Trainspotting, was never going to be an easy feat. From skinny youths chasing drug-fuelled dreams to the stylish soundtrack, the original cult film firmly planted itself in the minds of a generation.

But Boyle’s new endeavour takes this in its stride. The film reunites us with these renowned characters twenty years later in their hometown of Edinburgh. Tempting as it is to view the film in the shadow of its original, Boyle was careful not to be too nostalgic in his latest undertaking. T2 is entertaining in its own right. It might not have the same fresh faces and hedonistic feel, but you can’t deny its spirit.

T2 Trainspotting

So why go back? This was the question Boyle faced in making this film and he confronts it head on, carefully reconciling the past with the present. We are reintroduced to Ewan McGregor’s Renton with the same burst of energy from the original – the pop music, the quick cuts, the fast pace. Yet here Renton is a forty-something trading in drugs for an adrenaline-fuelled exercise regime. It sets the tone nicely, reminding us that T2 is aware of its updated identity. Time has moved on and these characters have too. Yet their past will always root them, much like us all.

This is most apparent in the character of Simon (or Sick Boy, as we once knew him). He carves a life for himself in the precarious underworld of running scams in his late aunt’s pub on a deserted industrial estate. He might not be the same heroin-dosed youth, but Jonny Lee Miller inhabits an air of sadness in this role. It is a compelling watch. In this way, T2 is much less a nostalgic passion project than a commentary on growing up. Without the gloss of partying or the haze of narcotics, the disparity between his former and present self is clearer. And the disappointment this brings is a poignant reminder to the audience.

The use of fantasy sequences, colour, and vivid sounds are Boyle’s signature style, and this film embraces them as much as the original. In one scene, Renton and Sick Boy succumb to their previous ways. Holed up in a room surrounded by glaring computer images of wildlife, they are basking in the euphoria of a score. It is surreal and jarring; reminiscent of the first film’s infamous moment when Renton hallucinates during his withdrawal from heroin.

In another scene, Spud falls from a tower block and Renton catches him. Boyle uses dreamlike techniques to reflect their inner turmoil. And yet he is careful not to alienate his audience. These moments are nicely counterbalanced by injections of humour and conversations without smoke and mirrors. One such example is when Renton returns home to greet his now widowed father. It is a sad and touching moment and this continual shift in dynamics reflects the characters’ tumultuous journeys.

The actors may have changed in appearance, but they approach their roles with the same gusto as twenty years ago. Robert Carlyle’s Begbie remains utterly menacing as the group’s psychopathic tearaway. Ewan Bremner as Spud is also as gormless as ever, inviting our sympathy with his pitiful glances and flailing expressions. And yet I couldn’t help be disappointed that characters like Kelly Macdonald make such a brief return. The film redeems itself with the introduction of Veronika, played by Anjela Nedyalkova, who has an increasingly central role in the story. But ultimately, the film remains very male dominated.

That said, Danny Boyle pulls T2 Trainspotting off with style. He creates a film that is as much a nod to the past as a success in its own right. Just listen to Renton’s revised ‘Choose Life’ speech. Gone are the mentions of compact disc players. Now it is references to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This is an updated world we live in and Boyle is entirely clued up. But who doesn’t enjoy a bit of nostalgia at the same time?


Written by Georgina Grier,


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