Twenty years ago Mark Renton famously chose life after screwing over his friends in a heroin deal. After taking the money and moving to Amsterdam, he’s now back in Scotland to make amends with his old mates. While the first film dealt with the horrors of heroin addiction, T2 shows us what has become of these old junkies as they live with the consequences of their actions. The old gang is pretty much where you’d expect to find them: Sick Boy is running a failing pub as well as trying to blackmail rich men by videotaping them in compromising positions with his girlfriend (an excellent Anjela Nedyalkova). Spud is divorced, can’t hold a job, and is back on the smack, and Begbie, fittingly, is in jail and is as delightfully mental as ever. It’s kind of amazing how easily the actors fall back into these roles after two decades, they have no problem recapturing the essence of these characters all theses years later. Ewan Bremner (Spud) in particular steals nearly every scene he is in and provides more than one genuine laugh out loud moment. Danny Boyle returns to direct with all the style you would expect from a film bearing the Trainspotting name.
T2 could never be as biting as the original, and the film knows it. But that doesn’t mean it lacks emotion, there’s plenty of that. Watching these characters fall back into old habits because they think they have no better options is downright depressing. Renton comes back hoping time has healed all wounds, because when things get tough, he, like we all tend to do, falls back on the familiar. Only his familiar is a bit more destructive. When aging junkies are out of options, they do what they know. Only after Begbie realizes Renton is back in town and is out for blood do we start to see these characters realize what they’ve continued to make of themselves. T2 is a lot like the life of any person in the midst of a mid life crisis, only with more drugs and better music.
“You’re a tourist in you own youth,” Sick boy points out to Mark at one point, a notion that the film hammers home with constant visual and musical throwbacks to the original. The line is an apt commentary on the characters as well as the viewers (and probably pop culture itself), T2 knows that nostalgia can only get you so far. It’s not as fresh as the original, but it’s not trying to be. The plot is thin in places and many of the story beats don’t go anywhere meaningful, but that’s not the point. T2 is content just to exist. A believable tale about where the lives of these characters has taken them is good enough. Because as you and I both know, choosing life doesn’t always work out the way you’d like it to.