There aren’t many films that leave a lasting impression on me, especially when they were first released 20 years ago. This could partly be because I have a horrible memory but also because they aren’t a lot of films that really get under your skin and nestle there for years to come. With that said, there are two films that immediately come to mind when I think back to the mid-90/early 2000s: TRAINSPOTTING and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. I couldn’t tell you where I was when I first watched either film, but I can tell you that each of those films has stayed with me since.
When it was announced that there was going to be a sequel to Danny Boyle’s drug fueled film TRAINSPOTTING, I was excited but hesitant, mostly because of how much I love the first film. Luckily, Danny Boyle was back in the directing chair for TRAINSPOTTING 2 and made sure to bring back all the originals from the first film including Ewan McGregor (Renton), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy/Simon), Robert Carlyle (Begbie), and Ewen Bermner (Spud). The film, which takes place 20 years after the first one, focuses on Renton who has returned to Scotland and becomes reunited with his friends as well as the demons he thought he left behind.
What made TRAINSPOTTING work so well, and subsequently the sequel, is the chemistry between all four leads. Without them, this film wouldn’t be what it is because they really bring to life these characters and the struggles they find themselves in. What this film does a great job of showcasing is that twenty years hasn’t really brought about that much change to our four friends. Sure, Renton’s kicked his heroin addiction, but his past is still causing pain in his life and those around him. At the end of TRAINSPOTTING, we watched as Renton stole $16,000 pounds from his friends, and now 20 years later, that is still an incredibly sore spot for his friends and the main focus of this sequel.
One of my favorite aspects of the original film was the art direction and I was happy to see that integrated into the sequel seamlessly. Whether it be jagged flashbacks to the first film, unique editing techniques, nods to our favorite scenes prior, or artistic flair, it made the film enjoyable from start to finish. It had been a long time since I saw TRAINSPOTTING, so I was grateful that the sequel gave enough information so as to jog my memory of what happened in the first film and to more easily follow the storyline as it was unfolding. I will say, I highly suggest watching the first film before throwing yourself into this one.
I think my only criticism of the film had to do with the lack of intensity that it offered. What made TRAINSPOTTING so memorable was specific scenes of gut wrenching horror. That first film really gave you insight into how destructive and terrifying drug addiction really is. It’s one of the main reasons why I remember the film so well. I felt like that was lacking throughout this film, and though it does highlight the effects of prolonged drug use, while also reminding us of the horrifying things that happened in the first film, TRAINSPOTTING 2 just didn’t have that same gut punch as the first. This could have been done purposely, as the film is more about the relationship between the four friends and the fracture caused by the theft of the money, but I would have liked to have seen more moments of raw intensity.
With that said, I still feel like TRAINSPOTTING 2 is one of the best sequels to have been made in recent years. I think Danny Boyle directing and bringing back the original actors for this film was key in having such a successful transition from the first film to this. As I mentioned, I loved the art direction and the moments within the film that were throwbacks to the original, because this allowed both films to have a seamless feel that isn’t often seen in sequels. The acting was superb and I can honestly say that I was intrigued to learn more about where these characters lives had gone and where they stood with their addiction. The film had more humor to it than the original but don’t let that notion overshadow the somber nature of the movie, it definitely isn’t a happy-go-lucky type of film. All in all, I feel like TRAINSPOTTING 2 came full circle with the lives of Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie and really, what more could the audience ask for? If you are a fan of TRAINSPOTTING then you will without a doubt wnat to watch this highly stylized sequel.
TRAINSPOTTING 2 is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.