“Choose your future. Choose life.”
This week, audiences will once again hear the famous mantra to the 1996 cult-classic, “Trainspotting,” in its new sequel, “T2 Trainspotting.”
The delivery of those last lines from Ewan McGregor’s opening monologue was a moment that will live on forever in film. The words illuminated the understated, emotional punch that the frenetic, thinly-veiled comedy delivered more than 20 years ago. An adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, “Trainspotting” told the story of four heroin addicts in Edinburgh, Scotland. Viewers saw a glimpse into their impulsive, drug-fueled lives, experiencing all their highs and lows.
McGregor’s monologue laid out the driving force behind the original “Trainspotting” — the consequence of our choices. The paths the four men took in the film were their own, but as McGregor said, they had the ability to choose their future, to choose life. “Trainspotting” didn’t overlook the inherent struggle in dealing with addiction and the fight that it takes to reverse damaging decisions.
The maturity and life perspective in original 1996 film will be further investigated in its sequel, “T2 Trainspotting.” More than 20 years have passed since audiences last saw the four men together, and much has been left to brew between them during that time. The sequel is a reflection on the past, on aging, on regret.
The film’s general sentiments are explained perfectly by one of the four main actors, Ewen Bremner (“Snowpiercer,” “Black Hawk Down”) who put it bluntly.
“Age is cruel, and you don’t realize that until you get to this point in your life. In the first film, we were full of exuberance and potency, and we thought we were invincible. It took us 20 years to realize that we’re just running on the spot and time is flying by,” Bremner said.
Fellow actor Jonny Lee Miller (“Hackers,” “Elementary”) further elaborated on Bremner’s thoughts, commenting on how the four men’s perception of their own mortality has changed since the original lm.
“[Feeling invincible] falls away later in life and what are you left with, you reflect more on,” Miller said. “I think the second film really reflects that very well about your attitude — your confidence disappears a little bit … You don’t feel invincible anymore. Your mortality is more evident to you perhaps, either subconsciously or consciously.”
Director Danny Boyle said he wanted the characters and the audience to feel his brutal honesty.
“You’ve got all the answers when you’re in your early 20s, and you mock and sneer about the whole thing,” Boyle said. “That’s expected and welcomed actually as you step out of childhood, you’re allowed that really; you’re not when you get in your mid-40s.”
“T2 Trainspotting” isn’t a sequel set out for purely commercial gains. Rather, it’s a project Boyle and his cast planned on doing for some time, with a focus on an even deeper exploration of the characters.
“We tried 10 years ago when there was an obvious prompt, because Irvine Welsh published a book, ‘Porno,’ which was a 10-years-later sequel to his [“Trainspotting”] novel,” Boyle said. “We had a go at it, and it wasn’t very good … I didn’t even bother sending it to the actors because it didn’t feel there was a real reason to do it.”
Boyle said he knows how important the artist’s’ intention behind a sequel is to an audience.
“Obviously there’s an onus on you when you return to something with the impact that the first film had,” Boyle said. “ If you’re going to update it, you’ve got to have a reason. And it didn’t feel like there was a reason.”
It’s always refreshing when a filmmaker nowadays can see past the short-term financial gain of a bland, uninspired sequel in order to tell the most emotionally resonant story possible. In this case, not only Danny Boyle returned, but also the entire “Trainspotting” team, from McGregor, Bremner and Miller to Kelly Macdonald (“Brave,” “No Country For Old Men) and Robert Carlyle (“Once Upon a Time,” “The Full Monty”).
“T2 Trainspotting” is a film based on a narrative need. If we are to learn anything from the original film’s “choose life” mantra, it’s imperative that viewers see what awaits them at the end of the paths each character chose to follow. “T2 Trainspotting” sets out to explore aging and regret though the heightened prism of these four addicts’ life choices — ones they now have to confront. Let’s hope they chose life. “T2 Trainspotting” opens in theaters across Chicago March 24.