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T2: Trainspotting (2017)

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Danny Boyle has never made a sequel to one of his films, until T2: Trainspotting, adding a sequel twenty years after his cult hit of Trainspotting. Again, T2: Trainspotting treads the same ground that formed the basis of Trainspotting in adapting Irvine Welsh’s novels, but this time working Welsh’s novel Porno into the mix.

Trainspotting was a smash hit and achieved cult status, from the famous toilet scene and it’s pop culture references throughout it has become sacred ground and I was filled with a sense of trepidation as the sequel approached. I’ve always held Danny Boyle in high regard, but this feeling could not be shaken due to the enjoyment from his original 1996 film.

“So Mark, what you been up to.. for twenty years?”

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As Mark makes his way around Edinburgh to see his old friends and trying to avoid the notorious Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) he begins to realise their social situations haven’t changed, as Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) is still scheming to make money and Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still addicted to heroin, seemingly without a purpose.

Spud’s character goes on one of the better journeys in T2 as we see him still in the realms of being traumatically haunted by his addiction, but with the help of Mark he finds a new things to be addicted to, the way Mark turned his life around. As he becomes intertwined with Mark and Simon and sometimes Begbie, he begins to channel this new lease in life instead of being a background comic character. As Mark and Simon’s character stories took more of the central stage, Spud’s is the one to be watching.

T2 becomes interesting viewing, as it is a continuation of the characters that were made famous in the 1996 original, but instead of having it as a standalone sequel Boyle decided to have certain parts mirror Trainspotting. As Spud leaves the boxing gym, he sees the younger version of himself run past in a dazed surreal scene. Boyle chose to tease the original soundtrack too with a few, lingering notes, which bought forth the wanting of the song to kick in. Instead, Boyle chose to leave it, having that feeling remain.

A big draw to the original Trainspotting was the ability to successfully show the social world from the view of people living in it. Boyle effectively brought this into the 21st Century with Mark Renton again using the ‘Choose Life’ speech, but this time having a echoing relevance to the world in 2017. The continuation of the characters also filled us in with what’s happened in the previous 20 years for them, as the four receive an introduction before Mark enters their lives again, with their previous lifestyle affecting them one way or another.

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Whilst Boyle managed to perfectly incorporate the social backdrop of Edinburgh now vs the Edinburgh twenty years ago, I did feel let down by the story. This becomes the one element that left a bitter taste in my mouth upon leaving the cinema. I shan’t divulge too much due to spoilers, but I felt underwhelmed on a whole due to the story letting me down.

Although T2 is a sequel to Trainspotting, it seems as though Danny Boyle chose to try and keep them as separate entities, almost a ‘Past v Present’ scenario throughout T2. There are certain subtleties that indicate this use, including the group using their actual names (except for Spud, who remains haunted by his addiction that began twenty years ago) and their nostalgia trips they take Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova) on in Simon’s flat.

T2 has managed to stay with me upon writing this 48 hours later. As I recount the characters, the comical gestures and the mirroring of Trainspotting, this all vastly outweighs an underwhelming story. It seems as though rather than focusing on the story, Danny Boyle focused on the characters and their situations twenty years down the line.

Boyle accompanied scenes with some beautiful visuals, of Mark and Simon celebrating a foosball goal and their hit of skag in Spud’s apartment. But also of Edinburgh, which wasn’t that focused on in Trainspotting. Although he is treading similar ground again, he is still working the camera fantastically throughout the film.

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After discussions and lengthy thoughts about T2 it became a better film for me to enjoy, but I could not shake that feeling of it being underwhelming when I left the cinema. It’s ability to remain with me 48 hours later and still be ‘fresh’, is a testament to what Danny Boyle actually achieved with T2.

The enjoyment on the screen of the characters and their actions throughout the two hour-ish runtime was excellent and felt brilliantly familiar, almost as though we hadn’t been waiting twenty years for the sequel. I feel the story would have benefitted more with Spud and his arc being front and centre, but him niggling away in the background still worked excellently.

Regardless, Danny Boyle has still taken everyone on a visual adventure with T2 from the club scene, to the heroin sequence in Spud’s flat, it all worked perfectly and carried on hitting the right tones. Boyle’s ability to mirror the films, but have them remain as separate entities was a masterstroke and served it’s purpose. The thing that has stayed with me is the Choose Life speech but with the 21st Century spin, because it hit all the right notes. T2 if anything has made me feel nostalgic for the first one, but I have every faith that repeated viewings of T2 will only strengthen its message.

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Author: Nathan Harris

Currently studying Film & Television studies and Media Writing at Derby University. Hopefully wanting to become a film critic/journalist.

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