‘T2 Trainspotting’ explores memory lane

Sequel is a surprising welcome back

Photo courtesy of TriStar Pictures
Simon “Sick Boy” (Jonny Lee Miller) and Mark “Rent Boy” (Ewan McGregor) lay back against a wall during a drug trip sequence in “T2 Trainspotting.”

First there was an opportunity, then there was a betrayal. Twenty years later, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place that he could ever call home. There waiting for him are old buddies Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, love, fear, regret, self-destruction and mortal danger are also all lined up and ready to welcome him.


Sequels are a tricky thing in Hollywood, most of the time they are rushed to cash in on the original or are made years later with the hopes that the studios will strike gold twice. With the latter, it’s even harder when the gap between films is over a decade. You can either get an instant classic like “Mad Max: Fury Road,” or a dud like “Independence Day: Resurgence.” So when it was announced that there was going to be a sequel to the ‘90s classic, “Trainspotting,” there were obvious concerns about if it would just be an uninspired repeat. While “T2 Trainspotting” does kind of fit that category, it does in a surprising way.

A classic film like “Trainspotting” didn’t need  a sequel as it works just fine as a single story. However, Director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge took unused elements from the original novel and its sequel, “Porno,” to construct an interesting narrative about characters who can’t let go of the past. This was a smart decision to make the film about living two steps in the past, as it make sense in relation to the characters’ addiction problems and their history. “T2” explores the characters as people who feel distant from the modern world and are only left with their memories of simpler times. With Boyle’s hyperactive editing style, these moments are played out in visually intriguing ways, such as how characters will visit a location from the original and see their younger selves acting scenes from the film.  

The cast does an excellent job of returning to their characters like no time has passed, all while appropriately evolving themselves. Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle show how time has affected them. Even though they’ve had 20 years to reflect on the events of the original, they are just as arrogant as ever. They return to their addictions in an attempt to get some joy back into their lives.

Since the film heavily plays on nostalgia, the film does repeat several moments from the original film. With that, there are some that come across as fanservice and don’t serve much purpose in the overall narrative, such as this film’s version of the “Choose Life” monologue. While it’s a nice nod to the original, it’s not like the film would be missing anything if it were removed.

Also, is there a reason why they couldn’t name it “Trainspotting 2” instead? Throwing in “T2” makes people think of a different sequel — “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” It’s a pointless stylization of a title and only confuses viewers.

This film is a rare example of a sequel where a long gap between films working to the benefit of the film. Thanks to the fantastic performances and clever examination of nostalgia, “T2 Trainspotting” should leave viewers thinking about their own past. As well as make them consider where their choices will lead them.