If anything, this film showed that what Hollywood could do, we could do just as well – maybe better! Trainspotting also launched the careers of the main cast and threw them into stardom. Ewan Mcgregor went onto do Star Wars, Robert Carlyle went onto do such films like The Full Monty and Angela’s Ashes, Ewen Bremner had a part in Black Hawk Down, Jonny Lee Miller is enjoying time in Elementry, Kevin McKidd went onto do Rome; and Kelly MacDonald went onto voice everyone’s favourite Pixar Princess in Brave. And that’s just SOME of the roles they’ve done.
Trainspotting 2 is set 20 years after the events of the first film – and actually takes elements from the book Porno, which is also a sequel to the first Trainspotting book. Interestingly enough, Danny Boyle, the director, deliberately waited 20 years for the actors to age, adding a real approach to it. With the first film ending with Renton (McGregor) stealing the money his friends made from a drug deal and deciding to “choose life” (as was a theme in the first film), Renton returns 20 years later to make amends with his friends. He finds that Spud (Bremner) is still on-and-off the heroin; which in turn has impacted on his relationship with his partner Gail and “Wee” Fergus. Simon “Sick Boy” (Miller) is still a criminal, working as a blackmailer and running a pub left by his aunt – which pretty much has no business whatsoever. He’s also seeing a girl from Bulgaria called Veronika. Begbie (Carlyle), who is in my opinion one of the most frightening characters in film history, is still in prison, but has escaped and looking to get back to things.
Now the film lacks the grim and gritty look from the first film as the camera work looks much cleaner than the first one; which is a little bit of a shame for my liking. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Throughout the film there are several different references to the first film – and occasionally, the camera cuts back to a scene from the first one after a character mimics a pose from there. It’s a sequel that respects the one that came before it, without out rightly throwing references in your face.
One of the great things I loved about this film was seeing how the character had progressed in the twenty years since that deal. Indeed, Renton returns to see how his actions affected their life – and still do. The scene where he meets Sick Boy for the first time starts off as a calm chat – then descends into full blown violence as Renton and Sick Boy fight it out. There is a lot of tension between Simon and Renton throughout as Simon tries to remind Renton of their friendship – even though Renton said he would have done the same with the money if he thought of it first.
When he goes to see Spud, he’s trying to kill himself and blames Renton for all the terrible things he did in his life. Even though Renton secretly left him £4000 of the drug money, Spud reminds him he was an addict, and he blew it all on heroin. So really, this act of kindness turned out to be almost a death sentence for Spud. Renton takes it on himself to help Spud through his addiction.
Begbie, as you might expect, is out for revenge as well, which eventually leads to a bloody confrontation. But I don’t want to spoil that too much. And he is as frightening as ever! One thing I did enjoy about this film is that we got to meet Begbie’s family – something I was pretty shocked about. Here we see him trying to get his son into his “business”, but he would rather go to college. There is an interesting tit-bit in the film that hints towards Begbie’s past, and his possibly abusive father, which even gives him a realisation. It was interesting to see that the monster even had some redeeming qualities – but ultimately, Begbie is just that. A monster. There are a few funny moments with him though – such as one bit where he asks an inmate to stab him so that he can go to hospital, and the inmate accidentally stabs him through the liver.
I think the biggest disappointment with me character wise is the lack of Kelly MacDonald. She only appears in one scene – and whilst she seems like she’s done well for herself, I really was hoping for more of her. In the first film, she was the catalyst for a lot of Renton’s actions and his decision to “choose life” in my opinion. Here she’s reduced to a cameo, which I think will disappoint a lot of fans of the film. This means that the only real female character we have is Veronika. And honestly I didn’t really care much for her. I guess she played a kinda important role in Spud’s development, but other that, I didn’t really see the point in her. I would have loved it if there was a stronger female lead and not just someone there for the two main guys to fawn over (insert SJW statement here).
There was one plot point that I felt didn’t go anywhere as well. When Simon and Renton try to set up their own sauna business, they come under fire from a rival crime boss. But after meeting him once, he disappears from the movie without playing any further role it in. Just felt a bit a strange they would bring him in without using him. But oh well, never mind.
One thing I will say is the camera work is immaculate. Trainspotting had some amazing imagery and symbolism in there and Trainspotting 2 has the same. The aforementioned suicide moment has a moment where Spud is imagining himself falling from a building, but is caught by Renton. Then there was a scene where Renton was stuck in a bathroom made of mirrors, which reflected himself many times, representing possibly the many choices that he made that led him there. The use of music was brilliant as well, with many remixes of Born Slippy being played over and over, although with a slower and deeper tone, possibly representing the depression of the characters.
An interesting note was that eventually, Spud decides to take up writing and uses his real life events to create a novel of some kind. This possibly hints that maybe Spud is Irvine Welsh, the creator of the books, and that the events of this film is what would lead to the creation of the books. I think that was done more as a tribute more than anything else, but it was a nice little touch as well as being a moment of redemption for Spud.
All in all, Trainspotting 2 was a sequel that probably didn’t need to be done, but I’m happy that it does. It carries a lot of depth and emotion and the use of music and imagery was fantastic. It doesn’t quite carry the subversive power of the first film, but it’s one of the better sequels out there that respects its routes.
Trainspotting 2 gets 4.5 out of 5. Highly recommended that you go see this one.
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