SXSW REVIEW: Trainspotting 2: A Lust for Youthful Tourism

March 23, 2017169 min

The sequel to Trainspotting is a special case, it is a play on rising nostalgia in all things and a loose adaptation of author Irvine Welsh’s follow up to Trainspotting, simply titled Porno. This sequel feels like it both belongs out here with a wash of nostalgic remakes and sequels and like something that resembles an experiment of growing up, friendship and a whole lot less drugs.

The film aptly opens with our titular ex junkie, Renton jogging on a treadmill, to contrast his running from the police in the first film. The juxtaposition is played out over searing and catchy electronic music. Mark is clearly a grown up and has clearly “chosen life,” that is until his heart gives out and he collapses on the floor.

With little option, and a stint in his heart, he goes back to his old stomping grounds. He finds out that his mother had passed while he was away. Once he arrives in his childhood bedroom, he attempts to play an Iggy Pop record but is unable to listen to a measure before retracting the record player’s needle.

The film finds Sickboy, having taken up blackmail as a means of getting cash(and sadly devoid of James Bond trivia talk), Begbie still in prison from the events of the finale of the first film and Spud, still at a standstill, still on smack. Since Mark left everyone high and dry long ago, Begbie has designs on killing him, Sickboy has plans on revenge and poor Spud just wants his old friend back.

T2 explores old friendships and rivalries in a hyper-real manor, but one that is still grounded to be able to make fair comparisons to the generalized act of growing up, forgiving and ultimately having to change to survive. A lot of the drugs are gone, it isn’t totally without but the first film was loaded with heroin and featured characters that made a narrative out of attempting to get more heroin or money to procure more heroin. This film fills that track mark-sized hole by injecting family and friend dynamics into the mix. Because of that, it manages to have more heart and compassion for its characters than the first film had.

This film could stand on its own two feet, but instead it relies too heavily on the beats that worked for the first. Director, Danny Boyle chooses to constantly cut old footage into scenes, when he isn’t beating you with that type of nostalgia he finds young lookalike actors who act out the earlier deeds of this band of droogies. By the end of the film, you wish that the entire film had decided to stand on its own two feet instead of being part of the past. I understand the choice to do this a few times, since these guys are being haunted by the good times and bad times of their former lives, but it does it a little too often instead.

Boyle, constantly dazzles with a brand-new color palette and a much more digitally polished aesthetic. Boyle adds after effects that are undeniably from the Boyle handbook. From freezing moments in time, to attaching digital camera’s to sing-along microphones and at odd angles, he creates a unique look at what he has become capable of over the years of creating a great body of work.

The interactions, rather they are hostile or friendly between Sickboy and Renton are something that we didn’t get enough of in the first film. The second act of the film could easily be titled The Adventures of Sickboy and Renton. These two, do cocaine, heroin and have a night out with the goal of discreetly snatching up a bunch of bar patron’s credit cards in what is perhaps the most fun sequence in the film. I could easily watch a full 2 hours of just Renton and Sickboy, but sadly we are pulled away in order to make room for other storylines.

The film does something extraordinarily interesting with Spud that leads to a huge goosebump inducing “ah-ha” moment in the third act of the film. Begbie’s story is also a heartstring puller. Him trying to form a misaligned relationship with his estranged son is really effective in its final act.

The film adds some hallmarks sprinkled throughout that feature the guys tougher has young kids. These constantly remind you that there is a lot of life between these dudes. It calls to mind your friends and your life and the one you chose. The ideas and characters form a poignant message and gives them a way to move past the past and dance into and embrace the future with a lust for life.

I have to admit, this film is wildly different than the first, but I suppose we wouldn’t have wanted to see the exact same thing again. I managed to see the film twice and it resonated a lot more with me the second time, primarily because I went in without the wild expectations I had before. Boyle and crew manage to create a special thing that feels like something that shouldn’t exist, and at the end of a second viewing makes you realize how lucky you were for having seen it.

Trey Hilburn III

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