a critiQal film review T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Plot: In the last gasp of youth, Sick Boy (Miller) is back in Edinburgh. He taps into one last great scam: directing and producing a porn film. While Sick Boy and Renton (McGregor) jockey for top dog, the out-of-jail and in-for-revenge Begbie (Carlyle) is on the loose. But it's the hapless, drug-addled Spud (Bremmer) who may be spreading the most trouble.

631 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 9s)
  • ...while solidly acted, this downer of a sequel eradicates the hope that these characters eventually made something of their lives.

After taking a break in reviews the last couple of weeks, we are back to check out a new release: T2 Trainspotting. We really enjoyed the original, and it seemed like this new film, set 20 years after the first, would be something right up our alley.

But was it? Or is T2 Trainspotting 20 years too late?

After 20 years, it’s pretty impressive that T2 Trainspotting managed to pull all of it’s original stars back together. Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle all return to their original roles, and surprise appearances from people like Kelly MacDonald help bring the continuity full circle. After 20 years, however, these aren’t the brash punks from Trainspotting (1996) anymore.

The original cast have all grown as actors (to varying degrees), and it shows in their performances in T2 Trainspotting. While Ewen Bremner tends to do a lot of silly mugging for the camera, Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller really lead the pack in T2 Trainspotting. They both deliver solid performances, albeit with much more introspection than in the previous film. Robert Carlyle, as well, takes his brashness down a notch by the end, and allows a glimmer of introspection to poke it’s way into his performance as well.

The real problem with T2 Trainspotting, however, lies in it’s storyline. While the premise seems decent enough – a reunion of these 4 after 20 years – it relies way too much on nostalgia rather than entertainment to pull it through. After the zany exuberance of Trainspotting (1996), viewers are expecting more of the same. Instead, T2 Trainspotting reunites four characters who haven’t really grown at all in the intervening years, and these man-boys really haven’t seemed to learn from any of their mistakes.

Usually, in a sequel, there is another transformation of the characters. With the ending of Trainspotting, it seemed like there had been a shocking wake up call to all 4 of these guys, and their lives would be completely different in the future. Instead, 20 years later, they seem to have just given up hope, and don’t know what to do with themselves now that (some of them) have kicked their drug habits. If this film had been set a year or so from the events of Trainspotting (1996), that may have made sense. But 20 years later? It just makes all of these characters seem a bit sad and pathetic by this point.

While there was a bit of that pathetic vibe on these blokes in Trainspotting (1996), it seemed like there was a bit of light at the end of the tunnel by the end. With T2 Trainspotting, that light has been vanquished for all time, and viewers spend most of the film discovering something the drugs and wackiness of the first was covering up: all 4 of the main characters are losers. Their lives are never going to get better, and all they can do is remember the “glory days” of their drug-addled punk youths.

And that’s a bit too bleak and down-to-earth for T2 Trainspotting, a sequel of a film that involved a majestic swim accessed through a condemned toilet. Like an aging punk rocker, the film tries to bring the nostalgia back (and does have one or too funny bits), but in the end, all the viewer can feel is sad for the pathetic, wrinkled shell of themselves these folks have become.

If you are looking for a bit of hope in your films, skip T2 Trainspotting, which extinguishes the hope left from Trainspotting (1996). If, instead, you are looking for more the reality TV version of what happens to ex-junkies who have messed themselves up so badly they don’t have a clue as to how to operate in the world of today, you should find T2 Trainspotting right up your alley.

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