Adaptation Drama

'T2 Trainspotting' Film Review: Two decades later, the 'Trainspotting' sequel brings closure to a cult classic

March 17, 2017Ben MK

For the most part, sequels seem to be made with the three R's — reduce, reuse and recycle — in mind. With T2 Trainspotting, director Danny Boyle's two-decades-later followup to his 1996 cult classic, however, it's more a case of redemption, revenge and rehabilitation. And not necessarily in that order.

As you might expect, the film takes place 20 years after the events of the original, which ended with recovering heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) starting his life anew. Unfortunately, that sort of clean break doesn't come without a bit of collateral damage. And so for the past two decades, Renton has had to live with the guilt of double-crossing his friends, Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), when he decided to flee with 12,000 of the 16,000 pounds the four of them had procured from an illicit drug deal.

Now, after one failed marriage, a heart attack and too much time spent hiding out in Amsterdam, Renton has returned home to Edinburgh to make long-overdue peace with his past. But while the simple-minded Spud, who's been unable to shake "the skag" all these years, is quick to forgive Renton for his betrayal, the bitter Sick Boy, who funds his cocaine habit by blackmailing sexually-depraved businessmen, and the vengeance-crazed Begbie, who's just recently escaped from prison, have a more sinister welcome-back in mind for their former pal.

Adapted by returning screenwriter John Hodge from the books "Porno" and "Trainspotting" by author Irvine Welsh (who, incidentally, makes a cameo as one of Begbie's unsavory associates), what follows doesn't shy away from paying homage to the original. From appearances by other members of the first film's cast, such as Kelly Macdonald's Diane, to remixes of some of its songs, to callbacks to some of its most iconic scenes, there's an unmistakable through line connecting this sequel and its predecessor that goes far beyond its namesake alone.

Yet, T2 Trainspotting is, in many ways, very different from Trainspotting. To Boyle and Hodge's credit, they don't try to recapture the feel of the first film, instead crafting something much darker and more solemnly introspective in tone. Closer to a spiritual successor than a direct descendant, this is a sequel that revisits its predecessor by framing it through the eyes of its older — but not necessarily wiser — main characters, while at the same time delivering the sort of closure to their arcs that fans of the original perhaps didn't know they needed.

Of course, this being a sequel released in 2017, there's also an inherent sense of self-awareness about the proceedings, albeit nothing near the level of something as tongue-in-cheek as, say, Deadpool. Still, there are moments when T2 Trainspotting can't resist poking a little fun at itself, not to mention at the notion of a followup arriving some two decades after the fact. Granted, the result may not make these characters relevant again, but at least it serves as a worthy epilogue to their story, should a third movie fail to materialize in another 20 years.

T2 Trainspotting releases March 17th, 2017 in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles from Sony Pictures, and opens in wide release on March 31st. The film has an MPAA rating of R for drug use, language throughout, strong sexual content, graphic nudity and some violence. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 57 Mins.

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