MOVIE REVIEW: TRAINSPOTTING 2
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10
More than twenty years after Danny Boyle’s iconic blend of junkie squalor, drug allure and cutting edge tunes, based on Irvine Welsh’s novel, comes another look into the lives of Edinburgh’s least finest, Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie.
Beware, some early spoilers follow…
Following a heart attack and marriage separation, Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Scotland for the first time since he stole £12,000 from his best friends – proceeds from the sale of some stolen heroin. Spud (Ewen Bremner) remains a hopeless junkie, whilst Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) – still bitter at his best friend’s betrayal – uses his Slovakian prostitute girlfriend Veronika to blackmail married men while dreaming of renovating his destitute pub, and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is nearly twenty years into an indefinite jail stretch.
There’s a very telling scene where Renton, Spud and Sick Boy journey to pay tribute to their late childhood friend Tommy. Renton confronts Sick Boy’s lack of empathy by declaring, “we’re here as a memorial,” to which the latter replies, “Nostalgia – you’re a tourist in your own youth.”
It’s nostalgia that lies at the heart of Boyle & Welsh’s story: old footage and music from the first instalment is cleverly cut into this new story, and again Boyle raises intelligent questions about the conflicts of addiction, as well as giving us an origin story for Welsh’s own writing, via Spud.
Nostalgia permeates every scene, both in front of and behind the cameras: it’s here in Boyle and Welsh revisiting perhaps their greatest success; in us wanting to revisit a film which reminds us of our own glory days, joyous and ugly in equal measure; in the vacuous modern culture depicted so incisively that celebrates shallow social media whilst glorifying everything retro; in the topography of the suburban Scottish wasteland which hasn’t been cleared or renovated in decades; in the familiar faces from the first film – not just the four leads, but bit parts like Dianne (now an expensive lawyer, played by Kelly MacDonald), Renton’s aging father (James Cosmo), and dodgy underworld figure Mikey Forrester (Welsh himself); and most importantly in the conflicts and friendships and betrayals of the characters’ – of our – youth which never fail to echo through our adulthood. You almost expect Renton to declare the obvious – ‘choose nostalgia’ – in the update of his famous ‘choose life’ speech here.
The four leads recreate their characters note perfectly, and there are excellent performances from the entire support ensemble, especially from Anjela Nedyalkova as the smarter-than-she-is-given-credit-for Veronika, and Scot Greenan as Begbie’s conflicted son Francis Junior.
A couple of story elements late in the piece don’t quite add up, but overall Trainspotting 2 does a fine job of recreating the archetypical feel of its predecessor, though without the manic, youthful energy of the original – which is completely fair considering everyone involved is twenty years older and, hopefully at least a little bit wiser.
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