Director Danny Boyle made the movie “Trainspotting” 20 years ago, and has gone on to make many superb movies. The original cast of the movie has also done well, especially Ewan McGregor. With a script that updated the original main characters after twenty years, Boyle is back with “T2 Trainspotting”. This new sequel has all the characters back for a new visit to the Scottish underclass, with an updated look at their lives.
“Trainspotting” introduced the heroin-addicted characters who made up the 1996 movie. There was Mark (Ewan McGregor) a de-facto leader of companions. “Spud” (Ewen Bremner) was along for a fun time, as was Simon (Jonny Lee Miller). The tough guy in the group was Begbie (Robert Carlyle) who was always in a fight. The last story ended with a bad drug deal where Mark took all the money. Spud knew and never let on, and Simon and Begbie wanted revenge. Begbie was the fall guy and was jailed.
“T2 Trainspotting” brings the group back into the present day, where Mark has been in Amsterdam for 20 years. After a medical scare, he comes back to Edinburgh – but he has other issues. His wife has kicked him out and the job he had is now gone. He has kicked the heroin habit and replaced it with exercise. Spud has never left heroin behind, and is about to end it all, but Mark saves him. Simon now runs a dumpy bar near the docks, but he cannot kick cocaine. Begbie finds a way to escape prison so he can raise more mayhem.
Simon is not pleased to see Mark return. Simon has a girlfriend named Veronika, who is planning to become a high-class Madame when Simon turns the bar into a brothel. The local crime boss has a say in that, so it never gets off the ground. Simon and Veronika instead go about trying to blackmail some locals in compromising positions.
Begbie tries to get back into the breaking and entering game, and he gets his son involved. When that does not work out too well, he goes to see Simon. Simon does not let on that Mark is back in town, but Begbie is still looking for revenge. Getting put back into prison would be enough for Begbie, as long as he can kill Mark.
Simon and Mark have a night out at a local pub, trying to grab some extra wallets. Mark and Begbie have a run-in where Mark is able to narrowly escape. Spud finds a new hobby in his quest to fight off addiction. But they all notice that the world around them has changed in the past 20 years, but they have stayed the same.
Danny Boyle burst onto the scene with “Trainspotting” all those years ago. He found some very talented actors, and he was able to bring them back for another go. Boyle’s style and camera flourishes are always on display, in many clever and noticeable ways. The acting is all-around terrific, because these actors have lived these lives before.
But the nagging feeling is that you cannot bottle lightning twice. Everything that was fresh and new and exciting in the first movie has a less of an edge here. The setup is not exactly the same of course, but the lovable loser group will always end up with the short end of the stick. Mark’s 20 year escape from the poverty and lowlife of Edinburgh might have made a better story just by itself.
“T2 Trainspotting” is a familiar ride for those who know the original film. And the returning cast and crew do their best to make the journey enjoyable. But when this train pulls into the station, you might feel that the return trip was a little rough going down the tracks…