Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by John Hodge
Adapted from Trainspotting and Porno by Irvine Welsh
Cast – Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
Running Time – 117 minutes
Though it’s only January, it’s hard to imagine another film arriving with a greater mix of anticipation and apprehension this year. A two decades on follow up to arguably the most iconic British film ever made, one that for many encompassed the Nineties with its mix of youthful hubris, kinetic energy and pulsing soundtrack. What a relief then that this film delivers. T2 Trainspotting is a hugely satisfying return to these beloved characters that never attempts to ride the coattails of its predecessor, instead it explores the toll of twenty year’s estrangement on childhood friendships, themes of regret and thwarted ambition, and the unexplainable bond between dysfunctional men. All while being laugh out loud funny, melancholic, and providing a new context to enjoy the original film.
Set twenty years after Renton (McGregor) ripped off his friends and decided to “choose life”, he returns to Edinburgh and reconnects with Spud (Bremner) and Simon (Miller), formerly known as Sick Boy. Finding his old friends in squalid conditions, with Spud reverting back to his addict lifestyle, and Simon engaging in sexual blackmail and running a near deserted pub, Renton’s return sets in motion a new business venture that brings old wounds to the surface and brings the trio into a collision course with the vengeful Francis Begbie (Carlyle).
The performances in this film are terrific. All four of the main cast step seamlessly back into their parts, bringing new shades to these older, damaged men. McGregor and Miller explore the roots of Renton and Simon’s relationship, their still youthful appearances failing to fully conceal their decades of mutual dependence and resentment for past betrayals, while as the hapless Spud, Bremner gives the character a new complexity and thoughtfulness, bringing the character to the forefront at key points in the story. However, the standout performance belongs to Robert Carlyle as Begbie. From his first scene in prison, Carlyle is a volcano of barely suppressed fury, his slightest gesture communicating threat and unpredictability. Yet, as with the other three, Begbie is also allowed a new complexity, as we see his relationship with his family, and frustration with his own lack of education and lust for violence. There are also a host of cameos from the first film, and a new addition to the cast whose presence drives a further wedge between Renton and Simon.
The film is directed with typical flair by Danny Boyle. Sensibly, he doesn’t attempt to ape the style of the original, with a few exceptions that really land. Instead, he creates more of a reflective tone in dialogue scenes, paying close attention to the Edinburgh locations and the ravages of time and drugs on the characters. The direction also works brilliantly in comedic and action set pieces, with one sequence involving an impromptu song bringing the entire audience to hysterical laughter, and a nightclub bathroom providing one of the most tension filled wordless moments.
The screenplay by John Hodge, writer of the first film, skilfully combines elements of the first novel and the follow up Porno with a new story bridging the gaps and cleverly creating a loop from movies to source materials. This is enhanced by the new soundtrack, combining modern artists with remixed versions of the iconic Iggy Pop and Underworld tracks.
T2 Trainspotting is a different film. If you go into it open to the idea that Trainspotting was a product of its time, a perfect realisation of these young, troubled men and their lives, and that to do them justice you have to provide something new, then
I think you will really enjoy it, and you will leave the cinema with a smile on your face, and a lot to think about.
Calum Maclean, Janaury, 2017