Considered one of the best British films of the manic Britpop 90’s, the original Trainspotting took viewers on an emotional rollercoaster of journey. Released in 1996 and based on the bestselling novel by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting followed the interlaced lives of four working class friends in Leith, Edinburgh. The iconic film helped elevate Ewan McGregor into a global star whilst also showcasing the frantic style incorporated by Danny Boyle.
One can never underestimate how vital the film became to British culture, with a soundtrack that reflected the times, recognisable, quotable dialogue and relatable drug use. The weight of expectation and pressure must at times been very uncomfortable for all included in production. However, like actors exclaimed to director Danny Boyle – “It better not be shite”, the final product is on the other end of the spectrum.
Renton (McGregor) has spent two decades hiding in exile over in Amsterdam, however circumstances somehow force him to return to his hometown, where his old friends, Sick Boy (Miller) and the imprudent Spud (Bremner) are running in the same old circles just in a different age. Sick Boy has now developed into a pimp who runs a dilapidated pub, while Spud had shown signs of promise and creating a new life for himself, has inevitably sunk back into heroin addiction. Meanwhile, the deranged, futile and hilarious Begbie (Carlyle) has escaped prison and has spent two decades vowing revenge on Renton; the two stories come together as Renton becomes entangled in a poorly structured business venture with Sick Boy and his girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova).
Now that the characters are embedded in pop culture, it would have been easy to reduce the individuals to parodies of themselves. Begbie gets laughs when, for example, he simmers with impotent, explosive rage as the lawyer quivers about the grounds on which his parole was denied. However, it causes for uncomfortable viewing when this same rage veers close to domestic violence upon Begbie’s return to his wife and son. Cleverly, the emotional ties drawing Renton back into reality are emphasised by flashbacks to the old friends in primary school.
Visual references to the original are evident throughout – a shot of a rancid toilet, Renton flying over the bonnet of a car, before stumbling back to his feet, to laugh at the windshield in a deranged manner. If there ever was a criticism for the film, it could be said that the film doesn’t endeavour to stand separate from the original. Then again, in doing so, T2 provides us with a bookmark and an evaluation of our own life choices and how far one has veered from the past. Sick Boy recalls sharing a needle with Renton the first time they took heroin together: “Your blood runs in my veins.” Renton inescapably makes all those mistakes again. Fundamentally, we can’t change who we are.
As seen in the first film, Danny Boyle provides the story with an epic scale, often capturing the characters in full frame and avoiding the claustrophobic feeling that is evident in many realist drama’s. With a new icon soundtrack pulsating with new wave sounds from the likes of Wolf Alice, High Contrast and a poignant updated version of Renton’s iconic “Choose Life” speech, Danny Boyle and co. have served up a film that unleashes a exhilarated ride almost as satisfying as the original 1996 hit.
Released: 27th January 2017
Director: Danny Boyle
Words by Matthew Thomas