T2 Trainspotting

Mar 22, 2017

T2 is more sober and melancholic than its manic predecessor.

T2 Trainspotting

Grade: B

Director: Danny Boyle (Trainspotting)

Screenplay: John Hodge, from Irvine Welsh novel

Cast: Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting), Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 57 min

by John DeSando

“It's just nostalgia! You're a tourist in your own youth. We were young; bad things happened.” Simon (Johnny Lee Miller)

Through all of the flashbacks to 20 years ago, when Renton (Ewan McGregor) ripped off his three Scottish mates after a youthful drug deal gone bad in Trainspotting, director Danny Boyle in T2 Trainspotting threads the theme of aging  buds recounting  their youth, especially the drugged up scene and Renton’s pivotal betrayal. Boyle doesn’t seem to mind that Renton’s return doesn’t make sense because coming to terms with aging and death is paramount.

If you can forgive the heavy Scottish accents for losing too much dialogue to our untuned ears, you can still enjoy the camaraderie that, in the case of Simon (a.k.a. Sick Boy) means getting revenge for the betrayal. Writer John Hodge imbues the narrative with frequent references to the “first-opportunity, then-betrayal” motif.  

Although all four seem to have been degraded by heroin and coke, Spud (Ewen Bremner) has suffered the most into an incoherence that masks a willingness to set matters right as he ascribes to Renton the reason for his lifelong addiction.  Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has the biggest chip on his shoulder because he has spent long years in jail. 

While Begbie represents the monster within, Spud seems to represent the lost innocence that haunts them all. Renton’s role is as a conscience still retaining wonder at the seedy lives they have made for themselves after their reckless youth.  While the three fight Begbie’s predations, they also fight the presence of death or at least the absence of youth.

In this way T2 is less a messy thriller and more a substantial study in the wages of sin and the consequences of revenge, or as the motif would have it, betrayal. Yet it is also about hope that new addictions can replace the old:

“You're an addict. So be addicted, just be addicted to something else. Choose the ones you love. Choose your future. Choose life.” Renton

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at