T2 TRAINSPOTTING (UK/18/117mins)
Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly Macdonald.
THE PLOT: Twenty years after he stole his friends’ money and vanished, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh, Immediately saving Spud (Ewen Bremner) from a suicide attempt and reuniting with Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) seems to be going well, but what Renton does not know is that Sick Boy has a plan for revenge, and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has just escaped from prison, and has not forgotten whose fault it is that he ended up there in the first place.
THE VERDICT: Twenty years, it has been twenty years since Renton dived into the worst toilet in Scotland, and Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ was played everywhere all the time. ‘T2 Trainspotting’ is another film like ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’; a film that fans of the original didn’t really need, but now that it’s here, are going to have a lot of fun with.
Many of the original cast of ‘Trainspotting’ return; Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Shirley Henderson, Kelly Macdonald and James Cosmo are all back for this new instalment, and all are on fine form, reprising the roles they originated twenty years ago. Robert Carlyle perhaps comes off the best of the bunch, making Begbie a character that has not changed, learned or grown from his time in prison, and is just as angry and violent as he was before. Ewen Bremner makes Spud the emotional heart of the film, since is he so likeable and so lost, and newcomer to the franchise, Anjela Nedyalkova holds her own as Veronika, although it is clear from the outset where her character is headed.
Frequent Boyle collaborator John Hodge has penned the screenplay for ‘T2 Trainspotting’, and obviously has fun with looking back on the past, when Renton and his friends had their whole lives ahead of them and, with their “Choose Life” mantra, believed they were more enlightened and evolved than the rest of the world. It is interesting to see what has happened to the characters over the years between the films – Renton is an accountant at a small business but knows this, as well as his marriage, will not last. Begbie is in prison, Sick Boy is extorting money from anyone he can, and Spud has never managed to get out of the trap of being a junkie, not for long anyway – but almost too much of the film is spent trying to tie these strands together before the real story can get underway. In this way, ‘T2 Trainspotting’ is rather similar to ‘Trainspotting’, while took a while to get moving as well. There is a fascination with nostalgia in the film that works for characters who never really managed to move on and get their lives together, and it gives Spud something to do until the main story figures out where he fits. The dialogue is strong, and the characters endearing, but a stronger story overall, and less focus on trying to make the characters fit in Edinburgh again would have made for a stronger film.
As director Danny Boyle brings the actors back to their characters of the past. Few of them seem to have moved on at all, and it is easy for them to fall back into old rhythms with old friends. Nostalgia tints the entire film, and Boyle obviously has fun with throwing in clips from the first film to tie everything together, but while this is a strength of the film, there are times when this becomes almost too much for ‘T2 Trainspotting’ to take on and still move forward with a new story in its own right. The soundtrack to the film is a lot of fun, however, as are some of the visual touches in the film, which feel old fashioned, but in the right way.
In all ‘T2 Trainspotting’ is a sequel we did not need, but now that it has arrived, is a delight for fans of the original film. The nostalgia factor of the film is fun, but often a little heavy handed, and although the performances in the film are strong, ‘T2 Trainspotting’ does struggle with the same lack of focus that plagued the first film. Still, it’s good to know that Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie made it through, and it is good to spend time with these elitist misfits once more.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Danny Boyle’s 1996 film Trainspotting was a key moment in British cinema history. Or at least, that’s what everyone else said. This reviewer was the right age to embrace it when it came out, but never particularly cared for it or understood its popular appeal. However, the long-awaited sequel T2 Trainspotting is a more balanced and mature affair, a reflection on the passing of time on four former friends.

    Renton (Ewan McGregor) has spent the last 20 years hiding out in Amsterdam. Having betrayed his friends on a drug deal and taken the money, he lives a life of past regret. So, one day he decides to come back to Edinburgh to put the past behind him and make amends for his foolish youthful behaviour. He reconnects with Spud (Ewen Bremner) first, saving his life after a suicide attempt. Spud is still a heroin addict and hasn’t been that successful in his life. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is now into running brothels, ahem… sauna parlours, with his girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). While Spud was a little more welcoming, Sick Boy is somewhat less so. However, he tries to rope Renton into his new business venture with Veronika with the idea of stabbing him in the back. Meanwhile, psycho Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has escaped from prison and sets off home to Edinburgh. Renton might want to run again…

    While some elements of Irvine Welsh’s novel sequel Porno are present, John Hodge has written a mostly new story here. It’s a timely reflection on how 20 years can slip right under you, when you’re older and realise that you’re no longer younger. Boyle hasn’t made a sequel before, so given Trainspotting’s apparent cult status, why come back and revisit these characters after so long? There’s a very real danger here that he couldn’t pull it off. When there’s such a long gap between films, it can be hard to re-connect with these characters or understand their relevance in the present time. But the passing of time has worked in the film’s favour. Boyle has mended fences with McGregor after passing him over for Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach and the rest of the original cast are back. But the years are reflected on their faces, contrasted with occasional flashbacks to their more youthful selves in the first film. Those 20 years become a character in itself, as Renton realises that you can’t change the past. You can only make amends for it.

    The now 60-year-old Boyle injects the same vibrant atmosphere of the original into the sequel. It has the vitality, liveliness and keen sense of humour of the original, but tinged with a sense of sadness at unfulfilled lives. The cast slip back into their characters easily enough, but with the sense that they haven’t changed that much. McGregor, in particular, is excellent. Renton’s on a guilt trip here and the years have allowed him to finally confront his betrayal and hope that his friends have forgiven him. Begbie is as crazy as ever, but now we get to see how he behaves in front of his son, who is not a chip off the old block. The only character who gets short-changed is Kelly Macdonald’s Diane, in what is little more than a business-like cameo. A proper sit-down between Renton and Diane would have been welcome, but it’s a minor flaw in what is overall a very fine film. If anything, T2 Trainspotting is that rare beast – a sequel that is better than the original. At least to this reviewer anyway. It has a very firm sense of character, identity, place and time. Aye. ****