I’d rather not spend all of my time comparing T2: Trainspotting to the original Trainspotting, but the mere fact that they’ve made a sequel after 20 years to one of the most stylistically influential movies of these past two decades practically demands comparison.
And there’s no doubt this is a sequel to Trainspotting. T2 quotes liberally from the first film, in both style and plot, using many of the same erratic techniques we first saw in Danny Boyle’s 1996 tour-de-force, and even incorporating clips from that first movie into this one.
Mark Renton has returned to Edinburgh after 20 years of living in Amsterdam. In case you don’t remember, Renton stole 16,000 pounds from his three friends at the end of the first Trainspotting, and needless to say, they’ve held that against him over the years. But now he’s back, and he falls in again with Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie, the last of which would like nothing more than to kill Renton for what he did. Sick Boy isn’t much happier, but his friendship with Renton wins out and the two eventually decide to go into business together. And poor Spud is still addicted to heroin and has descended to the point that he’s in the middle of trying to kill himself when Renton pays him a visit.
I said the movie quotes liberally from the original, and it does, maybe sometimes a little too much, as some of the action feels like a rehash of scenes we saw in the first movie. But there’s also no doubt that T2 is its own film. The tone of this movie is darker and much more contemplative, as the characters’ lives have moved well beyond the energy of their youth and each one of them has been beaten down by life and its complications. They’re not in the same place they were 20 years ago, which is true of each one of us.
And it’s to this movie’s credit that it takes into account the realities and disappointments of life, when it could have just given us characters who had hardly changed as people. But it doesn’t take that easy way out, and T2: Trainspotting is better for it.