Color me surprised last week when I stumbled a trailer for a film I never expected to see:
T2 Trainspotting, the sequel to the cult 1996 film (based on the cult Irvine Welsh novel) about a quartet of 20-something Scottish heroin junkies trying to figure out life.
The first film caught on because it captured the zeitgeist of Gen X working-class youth who didn’t want to do everything society expected of them.
Like Reality Bites a few years before it and Fight Club a few years later, Trainspotting was an anthem, a rebellion against the yuppie aspirations of young adults.
Still, for all its raw emotional power, Trainspotting was very much of its time – lightning in a bottle.
For anyone to dare try a sequel seems blasphemous, nothing but a cheap Hollywood cash grab based on nostalgia.
Until this trailer:
Why it works
1. The Cast and Crew Have Returned
This, in and of itself, is no mean feat.
Particularly because the original film made stars of them all, and several have since become superstars.
Ewen MacGregor – the breakout star of Trainspotting, in the decades since Macgregor has become an A-List star in his own right, graduating from such blockbuster fare as the Star Wars prequels Blackhawk Down and The Island to serious roles in dramas including The Ghost Writer, The Impossible and TV’s Fargo.
He clearly doesn’t need this movie, so his participation points to both his gratitude to director Danny Boyle and that it’s likely a passion project for both.
Danny Boyle – Boyle has since proven himself one of his generation’s top directors, as well of its most versatile.
He won the Academy Award for Best Director for 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire and has directed three actors in Oscar-nominated performances (Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs and James Franco in 127 Hours).
The Others – not to diminish their respective work in the intervening years as well, but principles Robert Carlyle (Once Upon a Time), Kelly MacDonald (TV’s Boardwalk Empire), Johnny Lee Miller (TV’s Elementary) and Ewen Bremner (Snowpiercer) return as well – making it a full-fledged reunion.
2. Society Has Changed – Or Has It?
By the end of Trainspotting, we’re fairly certain that one or more of the characters will soon end up dead, from heroin or otherwise.
That they’ve all somehow managed to survive the intervening decades and make it to middle age could be a compelling enough story alone.
But the trailer goes further, hinting at the sequel’s potential cultural relevance today.
It’s evident in the voiceover – the opening monologue:
Choose Life (1996)
Choose a job.
Choose a career.
Choose a family.
Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers.
Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance.
Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments.
Choose a starter home.
Choose your friends.
Choose leisurewear and matching luggage.
Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics.
Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning.
Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.
Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future.
But why would I want to do a thing like that?
I chose not to choose life.
I chose somethin’ else.
And the reasons?
There are no reasons.
Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?
Choose Life (2017)
Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares.
Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently.
And choose watching history repeat itself.
Choose your future.
Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn.
Choose a zero-hour contract, a two-hour journey to work.
And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen.
And then… take a deep breath.
You’re an addict, so be addicted Just be addicted to something else.
Choose the ones you love.
Choose your future.
There you have it.
The white male yuppie dissatisfaction of the 1990s, portrayed in such films as Fight Club, Reality Bites, and American Psycho – has given way to the middle-age dissatisfaction of the social media-addicted smartphone culture of 2017.
Where outsourcing and automation have decimated the idea of stable, long-term careers and an entire generation has learned that temporary contract assignments are their only career options.
T2 Trainspotting may turn out to be crap.
After all, the original came out of a specific time and place and happened to catch lightning in a bottle.
But, judging by this trailer – it could also prove to be something else: important.
Another anthem for our time.