“Choose unfulfilled promise and wishing you'd done it all differently. Choose never learning from your own mistakes. Choose watching history repeat itself…”
If you don’t recognize this litany from 1996’s Trainspotting and its infamous, opening “Choose Life” mantra, there’s good reason. It isn’t actually in there. The quote above comes from a similar screed by the same character, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), in this year’s 21-years-later sequel, the strangely-titled T2 Trainspotting. In Trainspotting, McGregor delivers his takedown of modern consumer culture (“Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance… Choose leisurewear and matching luggage.”) with the cocky bravado of youth. He and his pals may be strung out on heroin by their own choice, it says, but at least they haven’t been suckered by the system.
When McGregor unleashes his second monologue in the sequel, it’s a very different speech. Yes, it has been updated to reflect modern social traps (“Choose live-blogging…human interaction reduced to nothing more than data.”), but the bitterness of the delivery very quickly turns inward. This time it’s addressing personal failings. Renton and his friends have become every bit as trapped by their past mistakes and present stasis as anyone they previously mocked.
T2 substitutes the youthful, buzzing energy of its predecessor for a much more reflective look at, not just the characters, but those who helped create and embody them. Looked at on its own terms, through its own self-reflective lens, there’s a very honest, experienced take on human nature and aging here. One that, in its defiant, genius final shot, says more about choosing life – and everything that entails – than any clever monologue.