There are a number of films that emerged throughout the '90s that reflected the cultural zeitgeist of the west at that time, at least among generation X. One of those films was Trainspotting, unlike the equivalent American films of that time like Richard Linklater’s Slacker or Kevin Smith’s Clerks, which depicted American teens and their pop culture addled lives, Trainspotting did the same for those twenty somethings on the eastern side of the Atlantic.
#Trainspotting was made of different stuff though — harder stuff, harder drugs. The cult following the film was very confident that Danny Boyle could produce a worthwhile sequel, and that he has done. T2: Trainspotting is a triumph in recapturing the bleak '90s slacker film.
However, it is not the '90s any more. T2 takes the unique angle of seeing how these characters have coped with life since. The only other film like this is Clerks 2, which does something similar. Still, the Scotland of today is different from what went before— strange people from foreign lands abound, an isolated aging populace, a less conversational youth and ardent nationalism are depicted and often the target of wonderful black humor. We even get another "choose life" speech, where the falseness and silliness of things like social media and economic optimism are chastised in front of a member of a generation that thinks these things are right and sacred, and in turn to the audience.
This film finds strives to find common ground with most of its audience, but none more so than those who are now 40 and up who saw Trainspotting 20 years ago. The film's characters reflect a sense of failed dreams, lost glory and frustration. Memories from their youths lighten up their dour reality of a failing body and less-than-ideal financial and familial situations; the sense of being left behind in this new, strange world. The viewer may feel that this film wallows in nostalgia too much, and it does, but only because people have nostalgia for the past — why shouldn’t the characters? The film is self aware of its own dreamy reverence for a past that was far from perfect.
The large toolbox of tricks in Danny Boyle and co.'s disposal is emptied on this film. The cinematography is top notch as one would expect from such experienced minds and hands, the settings richly depicting colliding versions of Scottish cities. All the original cast from the original return, and proceed to slip back into their old characters with ease. #EwanMcGregor has had a pretty busy career since the '90s, and he brings a lot of world weariness to the character of Renton — an aspect I enjoyed. #DannyBoyle had a reputation of making films with true shock value, and all of the shock here is played into achieving laughs from an attentive audience, which somehow makes all this glorious bad taste respectful and endearing, which is surprising.
So what we have here is a very well put together film that I believe achieves creative parity with the original. If I took anything away from this experience it is that I hope this film inspires filmmakers and writers and everyone else to start utilizing black comedy more to criticize the world around them, not everything has to be presented in such a serious light. I also took away the same message I got from Clerks 2, being that sometimes to move forward with life you must go back.
Whoever you are and wherever you are, please go see this film.
An archive of my writings can be found here.
What did you think of the next chapter in the Trainspotting story?