Ever since seeing Danny Boyle’s first film, Shallow Grave, I eagerly looked forward to more films from him. When he followed that up with the powerful Trainspotting, also starring my favorite unknown (at the time) actor Ewan McGregor, it was clear he’d be making an exceptional contibution to cinema throughout the years. Two decades later, having directed a string of quality films, he takes us back to the early days, with T2 Trainspotting. His style still feeling fresh, the film gives audiences an opportunity to see the effects of time on a group of Scottish troublemakers, for lack of a better word.
Twenty years after Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie exposed us to their addictions, they’re back. Definitely older, perhaps not all that much wiser, they dose us with nostalgia, humor, uncertainty, and shenanigans. Reflecting on their pasts and the choices they’ve made, the film plays well as both a tribute to the earlier film and a continuation of the tale of their strained friendships and the choices they must face. T2 Trainspotting steers clear of rehashing the past, but rather revisits it with new eyes, much like anyone might look back on one’s youth and ponder the choices made and the outcomes experienced.
When looking at sequels, one often must ask how necessary is it to have seen the preceeding film. Adapted from Irvine Welsh’s novels, John Hodges’ screenplay fills in gaps to explain both who the characters are and how they arrived in their current situations. However, much of this information emerges later in the film, which may leave those unexposed to the first film a bit confused until those moments that history gets revealed. Some revelations are presented as flashbacks while others involve retelling the past to a conveniently added new character.
While one could get by without having seen the original, I wouldn’t recommend it. Sure, the script and filmmaking provide plenty of backstory and imagery to fill in a lot of blanks so new audiences won’t be totally lost, but Renton’s return to Edinburgh comes with many call-backs and sweet moments that only Trainspotting viewers would appreciate. Also having a fuller, clearer picture of the lives of their younger selves proves immensely useful in understanding the way they process the situations they encounter and their interactions with each other.
T2 shares some of the cynicism of Trainspotting yet manages a lighter overall tone than its predecessor. The humorous bits are much funnier than expected with the comedic tones pouring into the crevices of the grim world of addiction with which we’ve become familiar.