Choose ‘T2 Trainspotting’: A Sequel That Actually Works 20 Years After The Original

The past few years have shown us that sequels that wait too long are doomed to fail. Rings, Zoolander 2, and Independence Day: Resurgence were all basically met with a mostly empty theater, and those who were in attendance probably left early. So when it was announced that Danny Boyle would be returning to this breakthrough film Trainspotting (which is now old enough to drink in the US), many people were appropriately nervous. Would it cling too closely to the original? Would it fall into a familiar path and not try anything new? Could it possibly live up?

I’m here to tell you that while the title may not be good, T2 Trainspotting definitely works.

If you’re the kind of person who worships the original Trainspotting, then this probably won’t work for you because literally nothing else will. I think there’s definitely a very good argument for it being Boyle’s best film, but I don’t have any altars devoted to it. Luckily, T2 Trainspotting doesn’t try to be the original, which would have hampered the film in about every way.

While the first film was about twentysomethings doing drugs and riffing on the infinite possibilities, the sequel finds them as fortysomethings who seem to have run out of options. The world has changed around them, and they are the exact same kids. It was never about the drugs, that was their lie. It was always escapism, but there aren’t any more exits. Renton is still haunted by the betrayal of his friends, and getting divorced to add on top of that. Sick Boy has shifted to cocaine and runs blackmail jobs with his maybe/maybe not girlfriend, Veronika. Spud is still strung out and about to kill himself. Begbie has been in prison for the entire twenty years.

They are all losers, they always have been. Only now do they fully realize it.

While most of Danny Boyle’s films tend to be fairly frenetic and energized, T2 Trainspotting definitely feels a notch or two slower than the original, because the boys just can’t keep up with their old selves. To show this, they (and also the audience) are confronted with flashbacks and vignettes, some from the first film and some of their childhoods. All they’d need is a time machine, they think, in order to fix their mistakes. We know it wouldn’t change a thing.

The gang is all back (Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle) and they’re all doing great work. It feels as if they haven’t stopped inhabiting their characters since 1996, not a single beat has been missed. One of the bigger issues is that since this film is about the disappointment and failure of these men, Shirley Henderson and Kelly MacDonald get pushed almost entirely out of the film, which is a huge shame.

Honestly, I don’t have nearly as much to say about T2 Trainspotting as some of the other films I’ve written about here, but I also don’t see that as a bad thing. I went in with middling expectations, and I actually only saw it because Danny Boyle came back to direct this. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the 21 year-old sequel. The film could probably lose 15-20 minutes somewhere, because it does drag a little bit before the big confrontation scene, but that’s admittedly a minor gripe.

Choose life. Choose Trainspotting. And if you happen to have the time, I think you should choose T2 Trainspotting as well.

T2 Trainspotting: 7/10

Nick Potter

Co-founder of The Filmsmiths. Degree in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts with a minor in Cinema Studies from Central Michigan University. Pretty much the barbecue sauce of people but I'm doing my best.

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