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May 9, 2018

T2: Trainspotting

by Franz Patrick

T2: Trainspotting (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★

Those expecting a duplicate of the original modern crime-comedy classic “Trainspotting” are likely to be disappointed with Danny Boyle’s follow-up. While it retains some of the energy of the original, in many ways this installment is more mature, more thoughtful, less concerned about delivering swagger and attitude than it is in telling a story about familiar characters having the opportunity to reconcile with their common past.

I argue that the picture’s main weakness is its willingness to give into fan service. While parallel scenes and flashbacks are quite neat and at times able to draw a smile on my face during the first third, I grew tired of this technique during the latter half, especially when the tone shifts toward a more serious note and there is a genuine dramatic gravity in the center. These winks distract rather than enhance the experience—kind of like having a security blanket when the owner is no longer a child.

All four characters are equally fascinating when apart and when they finally cross paths. To me, despite this film and its predecessor’s generous images when it comes to drug use, its stance is without a doubt anti-drugs. Here, it shows how drugs has ruined the lives (and continues to ruin the lives) of those who have developed a habit. Each character falls on a different spot within the spectrum and the material makes a subtle case about personal responsibility’s role in how each person’s life has ended up the way it did.

The plot involving a man having to return to his hometown and triggering a sequence of events is surely familiar. However, the four former friends are interesting because each has his own demon to battle. Renton (Ewan McGregor) must face his friends after betraying them in the worst way possible. Although twenty years has passed, that feeling of shame doesn’t simply go away. Spud (Ewen Bremner) attempts to lead a drug-free life by channeling one addiction onto an healthier alternative. Admittedly, I wished for him to succeed but somewhere in the back of my mind I was convinced he would relapse.

Meanwhile, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is cooking up a plan to take revenge on Renton, his former best friend. Can a person whose bark is more powerful than his bite actually pull off such a scheme or will his soft spot get in the way of his purpose? And then there is Begbie the sociopath (Robert Carlyle) who has found a way to escape from jail. Having learned that Renton is in town, he plots to kill or seriously injure—at the very least. It is quite amazing that years have failed to erode the cast’s chemistry. Sure, there are more wrinkles on their bodies and faces, their postures are more worn, they move a little slower, but tension builds up the moment one looks at another a certain way and starts to dig up the past.

The strength of “T2: Trainspotting” lies in its ability to adapt to the age of its subjects. Because we have learned about them from a certain angle during their youth, the material remains fresh since we get to know them from a different perspective this time around. Credit to writer John Hodge for striving to deliver something of value and not simply rehashing what has worked before.


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