This review is spoiler free.
The original Trainspotting was released in cinemas in 1996. Directed by Danny Boyle, based on a book by Irvine Welsh, the black comedy starred Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle, and was about heroin addicts in inner-city Edinburgh, who eventually make off with £16 000 worth of drugs, which McGregor’s character, Mark, steals. It’s a funny movie, with some serious social commentary on the side.
Trainspotting 2 was recently released in cinemas, 20 years after the original. But unlike the spate of sequels to old movies released lately, Trainspotting 2 is actually good.
Mark returns to Edinburgh from Amsterdam, where he has been living the last 20 years. He’s had a near death experience and his wife has divorced him, so he has nowhere left to go. Naturally his best friend, Jonny Lee Miller’s character Simon is not happy to see him. Robert Carlyle’s Begbie, the strong-arm man of the group, has been serving time in gaol, escapes, finds out Mark is back in town and naturally wants to kill him. Ewan Bremner’s Spud has returned to heroin addiction, having been thrown out by his wife and son.
This is the set up for Trainspotting 2, which has the same tone and feel as the original, but does not run as one expects sequels to. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone. Safe to say, Trainspotting 2 is funny (in a hard, sometimes grim way) and still has time to comment on mid-life disappointment, social media and the impact of economic rationalism. The cast slips adroitly back into the roles they played 20 years ago, and each character gets ample screen time and character development. Boyle continues to utilise surrealism in some of his direction, perhaps not as famously as Mark swimming into a filthy toilet to recover his dropped suppository, as in the first movie, but through interesting shadow metaphors and by nostalgically integrating some scenes from both movies. At times the strong Scottish accents are a tough act to follow, but I’m sure this was more because of the bass-heavy cinema speakers.
Watching Trainspotting on DVD before seeing the sequel will provide additional insight, but it’s not essential.
Trainspotting 2 is a great movie. The train’s still running on time. Don’t miss it.
Trainspotting 2 is in cinemas now.