First there was an opportunity......then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.
Some films have a perfect ending in that there isn't a definitive ending to the story. When a character walks off into the sunset the audience is given a sense that this particular chapter is over but the hero's journey continues onward without us. Usually, this moment is the perfect place to end things without ever feeling the need to pick things up. When Ewan McGregor's Renton walks away from his pals at the end of Trainspotting, that was the perfect close to a darkly comedic and horrifying journey for the character. 20 years later director Danny Boyle picks up the antics of this motley crew with T2 Trainspotting by re-teaming with Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle to give fans of the original film one last look at these characters.
It's been 20 years since Mark "Rent Boy" Renton (Ewan McGregor) left his mates and made off with £20,000. After spending those years getting clean, educated, and married, Mark's life is swirling down the tubes fast. Divorce, bad health, and a lack of prospects propel him to return home for the first time in nearly two decades. Home is familiar, but a lot has changed. His mother has passed away. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is running extortion scams. Spud (Ewan Bremner) has tried to kick his addiction and be a standup father and husband, but can't shake his bad habits. Meanwhile, Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has just escaped from prison after being denied parole. Mark makes amends as quickly as he can with Spud and Sick Boy - even getting himself in a scheme to defraud the government out of £100,000. When Begbie learns Mark's back in town, Begbie's rage and desire for bloody vengeance could completely derail anyone's plans for profit.
Perhaps the best way to summarize my experience watching T2 Trainspotting is by calling it the sequel that I never knew I wanted. Trainspotting isn't a film I would call a favorite. It's one I thought was incredibly well made, darkly hilarious, scary and just a damn good piece of filmmaking. But it wasn't ever one that I needed to own in my collection. It wasn't ever something that I craved to see more than a few times over the last twenty years. So going into T2 Trainspotting I felt that any sequel to that film was just unnecessary. With an open-ended finality to the film, Trainspotting ended exactly where it should have without any definite conclusion. It wasn't a film I was nostalgic for more adventures featuring Rent Boy, Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Thankfully Danny Boyle manages to pull together a story that is more than a simple cash-in on a famed film.
While there is an absolute sense of nostalgia throughout T2 Trainspotting as there are many cutbacks to previous events and revisiting of old locations, the film manages to nail its sense of personal history. For Mark, no matter how far he ran or for how long, his past caught up with him one way or another. Since he couldn't run anymore, it would make sense that he would simply go home to the life he knew. While Mark and Sick Boy fall back into their old scheming ways and Begbie is just as angry and narrow-minded as ever, it's Spud's story that becomes the emotional lynchpin for this return to the darker side of Edinburgh. When Mark and Sick Boy construct their scheme, there's little doubt it won't be as squeaky clean easy as they think. But when you see Spud try to pick up the pieces of his life, when he first starts penning his life's story, you're at least given a sense of hope that one of these guys will make it out better than when we're first re-introduced to them.
What I particularly enjoyed about this film is that it is so completely aware of nostalgia that it finds a great sense of humor. Flashes of modern technology, music, movies - all in some way or another fluster one of the characters. The film is stylish with sharp-angled camera setups, skewed colors, gritty video noise, and a cacophony of music to blast a sudden edit. In the original Trainspotting, this stylish approach was part of the film's signature. It's what helped get it on the map and got people into theater seats to see it. In T2 Trainspotting these stylings feel like some sort of inside joke between older men trying to reclaim past glories. It's a nice sonic and visual cue to the film's dealings with themes about personal history while also helping to maintain the film's wild energy that you would expect. By being in itself a somewhat unnecessary sequel, T2 Trainspotting actually becomes a perfect parody for unnecessary franchise sequels and reboots.
Helping make this film work is the terrific cast. From Ewan McGregor to Ewan Bremner to Jonny Lee Miller to Robert Carlyle (among a few other familiar faces), no one has missed a step. As iconic as they were in their original roles, these guys fit these characters like a glove. Obviously, each actor has gone on to do a range of other projects over the years, but they're at right at home playing these scheming cons. The re-introductions to these characters is a lot like going home for a high school reunion. Everyone more or less looks the same, but you're not quite sure how everyone is on an emotional level. Will old rivalries flare up? Will friends become enemies? There is a natural ebb and flow to how well these guys work together that makes their time on screen together entertaining. Had anyone been off their game in any way, T2 Trainspotting could have been a disaster in the making.
Loosely based on Irvine Welsh's follow-up novel "Porno," Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge manage to make a film that impressively creates a sense of finality to the story while leaving a window or two open for the possibility of further adventures with this cast of characters. While at first, I was against the idea of this sequel, T2 Trainspotting ended up making me a believer that this sort of venture can actually work. Now I'm rather curious to see what these guys are doing in another 20 years when they're approaching their late 60s and early 70s. Would they have gotten their crap together? Or would they be up to their same old conniving ways? Maybe if everyone is still around in that time we'll be given that little treat?
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
T2 Trainspotting arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures in a single disc Blu-ray + Digital HD set. The disc is housed in a standard sturdy snapper Blu-ray case with identical slip cover. The disc loads to a bunch of trailers for other upcoming theatrical and home video releases from Sony before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
T2 Trainspotting arrives on Blu-ray with a strong but heavily stylized 1.85:1 1080p presentation. While much of the film plays on the straight and narrow with great detail levels, beautiful color saturation with strong primaries, inky black levels and the like. But, this wouldn't be a Danny Boyle movie without some heavily stylized shots to keep the energy flowing. In those moments colors can skew wildly from being totally washed out to pushed the max. Blacks can crush and whites can go supernova. Video noise can pick up quite a bit during these moments but all of this is by director's intent. There are also several flashbacks to the previous film and that older film stock very much stands out in contrast against the digital photography here. Thankfully as a cohesive whole, this flick looks great. It's what you'd expect from a Danny Boyle movie and it doesn't disappoint. The only hiccup I spotted was a bit of banding here and there, but nothing too severe to knock the score for but worth mentioning just the same.
T2 Trainspotting sports an aggressive English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix. From nearly incomprehensible dialogue to heightened sound effects to crushing music cues, all of the telltale signals of a Trainspotting movie are here to create an impressively aggressive audio mix. Dialogue is the only tough sticking point, but that's largely because I don't really have an ear for a thick Scottish accent. Just the same I didn't have much trouble understanding what was being said without needing subtitles. Sound effects and atmospherics are tuned to give maximum impact depending on the scene in question. When things are quiet and conversational, there is a terrific amount of atmosphere activity to keep the surround channels working just enough to give you a sense of space and dimension. During the heavier moments or highly stylized scenes the audio can almost be crushing but not in a way that ruins the mix and instead adds to the intensity of the moment. All around this is a fantastic audio track - one that you're going to want to set loud and keep it there.
While the number of individual bonus features may be small, they are mighty. The terrific audio commentary with Danny Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge is a worthwhile listen - especially as they discuss the challenges of picking up the story after two decades. The numerous deleted scenes are an interesting watch and the cast interviews can be a good bit of fun as well.
Audio Commentary with Director Danny Boyle and Writer John Hodge
20 Years In The Making: A Conversation with Danny Boyle and the Cast (HD 24:49) This is a great roundtable conversation between Boyle, Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle. Unfortunately Ewen Bremner wasn't available, however, this is a pretty great bit of material. Boyle keeps the conversation rolling asking each of the guys questions about finding their characters after so long away.
Deleted Scenes (HD 30:11) Can be watching individually or in one big chunk, these work more as scene extensions and alternate takes rather than anything new. Some of the material is pretty great, but it's also easy to see why it was left out of the film.
Calton Athletic Documentary: Choosing Endorphins Over Addiction (HD 4:25) Relatable to how Mark kicks his addiction in the film, this is a brief but very powerful showcase of addicts who manage to kick their habits through exercise and sports.
Maybe T2 Trainspotting wasn't the most necessary sequel to come down the pipeline, but it was a damn good one just the same and I'm glad Danny Boyle and his cast found a way to make returning to these characters interesting and worth the effort. While it doesn't fully live up to the original, this new adventure is a terrific epilogue of sorts allowing for a nice sense closure while also leaving the possibility open for another outing with these characters - which I wouldn't be against at all.
Sony Pictures brings T2 Trainspotting to Blu-ray in a nice and neat little package. Sporting a great video transfer as well as a host of great bonus feature content, this Blu-ray release is an easy one to recommend.