Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
I’m going to come clean straight away and admit that I only watched the original ‘Trainspotting’ for the first time a week before seeing the sequel, when it was shown at a special screening in my local cinema. It’s a film that’s been on my “to watch” list for a long time, but I can now proudly say I loved it, and it was blatantly obvious to me why it is seen as such a classic, and also why there was some uncertainty surrounding the sequel.
It’s been twenty years since Renton (Ewan McGregor) betrayed his friends and ran off with £16,000 that was meant to be split evenly between him and his 3 best friends. Ever since sneaking out of that hotel room with the cash, Renton has been living in Amsterdam, but after suffering a heart attack, he decides it’s time to return to Edinburgh and reconcile with his former friends. Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) are stunned by Renton’s return, but it’s not long before the friends find themselves back up to their old tricks and a scheme is formulated. That is, until Begbie (Robert Carlyle) escapes from prison and catches word of Renton’s return, leading to a hatred-fueled revenge mission.
There’s always scepticism when a sequel to such a classic film is announced – it comes with the territory – but Danny Boyle has done an exceptional job here. He has captured what audiences loved so much about the original ‘Trainspotting’ twenty years ago, and delivered a sequel that is nostalgic, yet doesn’t solely rely on its nostalgia to keep the story grounded. Each member of the cast delivered tremendous performances in their respective roles, with honourable mentions to Ewen Bremner as Spud, whose life story for the past twenty years will tug at your heart strings, and Robert Carlyle as the psychotic, revenge-seeking Begbie, who quickly becomes an audience favourite. The addition of Anjela Nedyalkova to the cast, as Sick Boy’s girlfriend slash not girlfriend, was brilliant. She fit right in alongside the returning actors, and her character is often the voice of reason for Renton and Sick Boy, who struggle to see eye to eye on some matters. There is also a very brief, but welcomed scene, featuring Kelly Macdonald as Diane – you know, the young lady Renton went home with in the first film. I would have loved for her to have more screen time here, but at the same time, I also feel like any more involvement would have felt shoe-horned in, and as such, Danny Boyle handled her inclusion perfectly.
Compared to the original, the pacing here is certainly slower, but by no means slow. Visually, it’s far less ostentatious, but has the obvious signs of Boyle flare, and in truth has a much more melancholy narrative, but one which is perfectly appropriate for the story being told. These differences are all welcomed, and very much what I expected from a sequel both set, and filmed, two decades after its predecessor. T2’s charm lies in the fact that it has successfully captured the spirit of the original, whilst addressing the fact there has been this long period of time elapsed, and that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. John Hodge, who adapted Irivne Welsh’s novel, hits the characters with brutal truths and harsh reality checks that make them question their own actions and reflect on where it all went so wrong, and leaves them wondering what the future could possibly hold for them.
Danny Boyle has delivered the sequel we all wanted, and the one the original deserved. The actors reprising their roles slip right back in with such ease that it feels like they’ve never been away. Their characters are facing much darker and troubled times, but you’re aware the whole time that these are the same characters who, when we last saw them, had no cares in the world as young twenty-somethings who thought a good time was injecting heroin into their bloodstreams and…well that was about it. There are some brilliant, hysterical scenes – when you see the film, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to – and those will definitely be dominating conversations related to this film. I highly recommend catching ‘T2 Trainspotting’ on a cinema screen if you’re a fan of the original.