Let’s start with a statement that’s bound to ruffle some feathers. Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) isn’t the great piece of cinema that it’s been touted to be. The film, which follows 4 young men who can’t help but be beholden to the escape derived from drugs, has been lauded with all sorts of accolades. With a distinct rhythm and visual verve, it inspired a lot of other filmmakers to tackle the theme of troubled youth with the same frenetic style and seeming disregard for structure. (WATCH: First trailer for ‘Trainspotting’ sequel ‘T2’ is here)
The film is popular, and with all the right reasons, but then, seeing it now and against all other films that have been made with it as an obvious canvas, it becomes apparent that Trainspotting is a film that talks more to and about its generation. It persists as an artifact and not as a piece of work whose cinematic merits are greater than its resounding message.
Two decades after
T2 Trainspotting is the sequel that Boyle very much needed.
The film, set and released more than two decades after the original, is both markedly different yet very familiar. It still follows the 4 formerly young men, now nearing their fifties, as they belatedly reunite after the original film’s morally dubious but metaphorically apt conclusion. Screenwriter John Hodge transforms that ending into a point of friction for the 4 characters whose lives are mostly due to their inability to get away from their past.
Renton (Ewan McGregor) is back in Scotland. Right after taking off with the money he was supposed to share with his buddies, he has lived most of his adult life in Amsterdam, where he has a supposedly stable job and a wife who loves him.
He rescues Spud (Ewan Brenner), who is having a hard time getting out of his addiction, from a suicide, and is lured into another moneymaking scheme by Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), who is now running a sex video scam with his girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Bigby (Robert Carlyle), who has just escaped from police custody, has nothing but hate and wishes harm and extreme violence on Renton.
T2 Trainspotting seems to follow a plot of many too convenient encounters and coincidences. However, the film feels like its outrageously over-the-top plot is secondary to its sad statement about its characters. The film spends a lot more time exploring its characters’ pains and hesitations, making them more vulnerable and more human as opposed to the cool poster boys of both the pleasures and dangers drug addiction that they were 20 years ago.
The film busies itself with all sorts of memories and characters being overwhelmed with them. It deals with nostalgia, with contrition, with revenge, with all kinds of emotions whose existence deals with irretrievable past. Boyle abandons most of the energy of the original film.
T2 Trainspotting has more moments of reprieve, of characters contemplating, of them being awkward around a society that is transforming too soon and too quickly. This isn’t to say that the film is a slog. It is not. Boyle still adheres to the requirements of the genre he chose to frame his characters’ bizarre reunion, crafting scenes that are visually tense and exciting.
Universe of regret
By focusing not on the continuation of the narrative but more on weighty changes that come with growing up and growing old, T2 Trainspotting turns both films into a profound document on human obsolescence, on the purpose of legacy and how such desire for a legacy translates to an understandable fear of mortality.
In a way, the sequel, when seen together with the first film and keeping in mind that 20 long years have passed for both the characters and the entire world, speaks volumes about the passage of time, and how it transforms us from creatures who have an entire future to waste to relics who have a universe of regret to contend with. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ ‘Tirad Pass.’ Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.
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