Film Face-Off: Trainspotting vs. T2 Trainspotting

Welcome to Film Face-Off. Two films enter, one film leaves. Well, technically Jeff Bayer simply pits two movies together, makes up five categories, and then declares a winner. Sometimes there is a good reason for this, sometimes there is not. Most of the time there is a clear winner (in his opinion). Welcome to Film Face-Off.

I have Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” cranked up all the way, but it’s OK, I’m also full of heroin. Trainspotting came out in 1996, and after 21 years it was time for T2 Trainspotting because … because … well, it’s because director Danny Boyle is a big fan of the first one.

As far as the categories go, there will not be music. It wouldn’t be fair. Trainspotting has one of the best soundtracks, period. “Lust for Life” and “Born Slippy” are used so well in the film that they are my favorite “beginning and end of a movie involving music.” T2 Trainspotting does some nice inclusions of those and other songs from the original, plus some decent new songs, but nothing that magical.

Also, subtitles won’t be one of the five face-offs since there were none in the first (even though it would have helped at times), and the way they barely use them in the second verges on annoying very quickly. Let’s get to the fight.

Trainspotting vs. T2 Trainspotting


The Lead


Renton (Ewan McGregor) lets us know he’s not a good guy right away. He proves it by the film’s end when he steals £16,000 from his friends.

T2 Trainspotting:

Renton explains to Simon/Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) that things are going well 20 years later. He’s got a wife, kids, blah, blah, blah. Turns out, he still lies.


Winner: Trainspotting. Even with all of that heroin Renton does in the first film, he still comes off as a lovable scamp. That’s the beauty of youth. He’s a little more single-minded in that youth (a strong focus on heroin and how to get more), but at least you have a sense of who he is. In T2, there are many times I feel no connection or understanding to why Renton is doing the things he does.

The Sidekick


Spud (Ewen Bremner) is a fool. He is also a sweetheart with a girlfriend (Shirley Henderson). Renton leaves him £4,000 from the drug money.

T2 Trainspotting:

Spud is a fool who is trying to kick heroin. He gets a little motivation and turns that into interior designing and more importantly, writing.


Winner: T2 Trainspotting. Spud’s path in the sequel is the closest thing we have to something to care about. He’s desperate to have some sort of connection to his son and special lady (still Henderson). Yes, the interior designing is odd, but the writing (even though cliche) does fit really well for him. I liked Spud’s nonsense of a job interview from the first film, but I didn’t care or root for him as much as I do in T2.

The Rest of the Cast


Sick Boy talks about James Bond. Instead of heroin, Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is addicted to violence. Diane (Kelly Macdonald) is only 15, and Tommy (Kevin McKidd) eventually decides to give heroin a try, which turns out not to be a good idea.

T2 Trainspotting:

Simon is now a blackmailer who enjoys cocaine. Begbie escapes prison and attempts to get his son to go into the family business of criminality. Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) hangs out with Simon and is interested in Renton. Diane has a moment.


Winner: Trainspotting. I hadn’t seen Trainspotting in a few years, so it was pretty great to be dumbfounded by connecting the dots with Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire) and McKidd (Rome). Begbie was an entertaining time bomb in the original, and now he’s just a villain, hell-bent on revenge. Everyone is rightfully scared of him, but that doesn’t make him interesting. I’m happy to report the sequel doesn’t have any statutory rape, but Veronika as a love interest/muse feels like it’s getting in the way of hanging out with the boys.

The Darkness


You mean besides the heroin? How about a dead baby, and the death of Tommy, which Renton doesn’t seem to be affected by all that much.

T2 Trainspotting:

You mean besides a tiny bit of heroin? They talk about that dead baby and Tommy’s death. There is also more backstabbing this time around.


Winner: Trainspotting. The dead baby in the crib is one of the more upsetting images in film for me. Once the baby is crawling on the ceiling, it loses a little because I can’t figure out if Boyle wanted it to look that fake or what, but I honestly get chills when Allison (Susan Vidler) screams and the gang discovers the unthinkable (to them). Renton steals Tommy’s sex tape, that leads to an eventual break up, then he gives Tommy heroin because he has cash to get them both high, then Tommy (eventually an addict) dies, and Renton doesn’t really mourn him. That’s dark. T2 literally talks about these two moments back to back, then Simon and Renton have some heroin. I understand the attempt of the scene, but there is no feeling in it.

The Grossness


Renton dives deep into the worst bathroom stall in film history. Spud accidentally sprays poop all over his girlfriend, her parents, and their kitchen.

T2 Trainspotting:

Spud vomits in a bag that he taped around his face. Begbie has a guy cut him, but he doesn’t do a great job. Begbie also pulls an IV needle out of his arm.


Winner: Trainspotting. “Oh that’s right, how could I forget.” That’s what I mumbled to myself when Renton finds himself in a bar toilet considered “the worst.” First his butt explodes, then he dives in after some suppository heroin pills, then he crawls out. If it wasn’t clean water that he spit out when he emerges from the toilet, I believe there is a chance the scene could have made me vomit. As my editor Eric D. Snider says, “Just keep telling yourself it’s chocolate pudding.” That’s never been more true than Spud holding onto those sheets in the kitchen. In T2, Spud’s vomiting was a hopeful start to some quality grossness, but it was really the only worthy moment.


Trainspotting defeats T2 Trainspotting 4-1.

It’s an easy victory for Trainspotting. With most sequels you wonder if you really needed them. You know who needed this one? Danny Boyle. It feels like he’s made an ode to the first film (and himself). Honestly, I can’t think of another movie to use as much footage of the original in the sequel. The problem is, Trainspotting is raw. T2 is (over-) stylized. With that, you lose the connection, which is a weird, uncomfortable, but ultimately exciting thing to have with heroin addicts and a rageaholic.

Jeff Bayer lives in Portland, Ore., and previously wrote Film Face-Off at

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