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T2 Trainspotting - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
T2 Trainspotting
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

The very existence of T2 Trainspotting begs the question: who is this movie's target audience? It can't be all that broad: people whose age roughly matches that of three of the four leads -- mid-forties, generally -- and who also have seen and remember fondly what was then a very innovative indie film, Trainspotting, released in 1996. Maybe a few people who saw it on VHS or DVD in the few years following that first film's original release.

To say that T2 Trainspotting relies on a nostalgic fondness and memory of that original film would be an understatement. And generally speaking, making sequels two full decades after the original does not go well. I'll say this for the Trainspotting sequel: it works better than one might expect. Its biggest problem, though, is that its predecessor really was an innovative film, and any sequel, by definition, cannot be. Although it has the same director (Danny Boyle, who gave us the likes of 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire in the meantime), it uses the very same kinds of "snappy" editing as the first film, which makes it feel oddly conventional in a way the first film never could. The first film did not have particularly great cinematography, though, so that's where it sort of flips: T2 is well shot and features a lot of strikingly beautiful imagery.

The title is a little mystifying. Surely Danny Boyle knew that "T2" has been widely associated with Terminator 2 since 1991? The word "trainspotting" itself, if a bit of Googling is to be believed, comes from the novel on which the first film is based, a reference to shooting up. In that sense, the "T2" sort of makes sense in context, although it would still make sense to call it the more straightforward "Trainspotting 2." In any event, characters who haven't done dugs for two decades do it again here. I mean, of course they do. Otherwise, what would be the point of making a sequel?

I did find myself wondering how well someone who has never seen the first film might be able to follow this one. It shouldn't be too difficult at all, actually. But the bigger question is whether such people would find any real significance to this film? Not likely. It would be engaging and fun to watch, but only those familiar with the first film would get the countless cinematic references to it, from the plot itself to its very movie-making conventions. Ewan McGregor's Renton character even gets a throwback diatribe updating this "Choose Life" monologue from the first film. It's slightly meta in its self-referential nature, and in that context underlines a loss of youth and a sense of arrested development in middle-aged men. But, as with many things in this movie, its intended meaning only comes across with an intimate knowledge and working memory of the first film.

So, what of the story, then? Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has been in prison for twenty years, and he escapes. Conveniently for sequel-making purposes, this happens at the same time that Renton (McGregor) returns to Edinburgh from Amsterdam for the first time in twenty years, because of his mother's passing. He seeks out Spud (Ewen Bremner), the one out of the four of them who is still very much a junkie. He also comes across Simon (Jonny Lee Miller), who is still understandably pissed about the money Renton made off with at the end of the previous film. They all are, really. So, friendships are rekindled in superficial ways with ulterior motives and vengeance in mind. This all plays out in variously entertaining ways.

The one new major character, who turns out to be a key plot point this time around, is Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), Simon's much younger business associate he's convinced is his girlfriend but isn't quite. She plays a much bigger part in this story than, say, Diane (Kelly Macdonald), who returns in a single scene as a consulting lawyer. This is the woman who played the underage schoolgirl Renton hooked up with in the first film, you might remember.

It's fun and fascinating to consider what time and aging has done to all these characters, and Boyle presents them in eminently believable ways. T2 Trainspotting is about as entertaining as any fan of the first film could ask for. The problem is its eminent lack of originality, of taking the very act of storytelling in new directions the way the first film did. The original Trainspotting is what put Danny Boyle -- and, arguably, Ewan McGregor -- on the map. This sequel is a fun update on all its characters (or at least, the ones who survived), but relies too heavily on nostalgia rather than on offering anything truly new.

Jonny Lee Miller and Ewan McGregor trip over old time memories in T2 TRAINSPOTTING.

Overall: B
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