What happened to Mark Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie? Read our movie review of T2 Trainspotting to find out:It’s been over 20 years since Ewan McGregor ran with the money, Ewen Bremner kept quiet, Robert Carlyle was caught by the police and Jonny Lee Miller lost his infant child to neglect. Did you forget all those moments from Trainspotting? Don’t worry; Danny Boyle will do his best to bring you up to speed while simultaneously bringing down the focus and energy of the T2 Trainspotting sequel. Sure, the director still has some of that wicked wit, grit and style, but it comes down hard as the movie spins out of ideas into a nostalgic free fall.
You can pinpoint when the movie loses its mojo after McGregor delivers a familiar rant on what to choose in life. Having shirked the more simple and quiet life he swore to after dumping his heroin kick, he angrily spins into a stream of denouncing the Internet, social media and conspiracy theories as no more than data attempting to distract us from life. He ends his rant with an amusing “anyway,” shrugging and chugging his drink before leading a woman to bed. From this point forward, his character slips into his cloudy wonderland of looking back fondly on his past, all the way back to childhood. Now that’s some ultra nostalgia, but I suppose schoolyard days are more golden than those of doing heroin.
From the first shot, T2 Trainspotting does have an undeniable energy and finds enough for every character to do after all this time. Mark (McGregor) has recently returned to Edinburgh after a divorce with his wife and needs to find a new venture. Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) is still hanging around with his pub and extortion racket, but decides to let Mark in on his scheme of building a sleazy sauna. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is struggling to reform his junkie lifestyle that has hindered him, taken in by Mark to go straight and write about his experiences. Meanwhile, the aged and still-angry Franco (Robert Carlyle) has broken out of a prison and is eager to get some bloody revenge on the junkies who wronged him.
There’s a lot to love in Boyle’s visuals for making relatively simple scenes a little more involving and inspired. I love how Carlyle’s Scottish accent is so thick during his first appearance in a prison conference room that subtitles are not only appreciatively present, but wrap around the room with a liveliness to them. I became entranced by Spud’s depressing apartment life with some great camera work, including a unique shifting perspective of his attempt at suicide. There’s real energy in a scene where Mark and Simon secretly rob a club and the only way out is through a song about despising Catholics. Even the final shot is an impressive use of visuals to transform a small room into an endless tunnel. This is a dazzling picture to look at even for as downplayed as it is with its manic nature.
While it’s impossible to fault T2 Trainspotting for being as gorgeous as it is, it becomes a bit muddy and lost in its attempts to delve deeper into the characters’ outlooks on life. There’s so much going on in the lives of all these characters that the whole angle of buying a sauna soon becomes an afterthought in the mess of revenge and drugs. The brakes are pumped hard on that plot to provide an emotional callback to the previous film. Clips from the original film are not only pulled, but also additionally duplicated, as history repeats itself with McGregor once more staring up the hood of a car as he flees for his life.