In T2 Trainspotting, Renton (McGregor) and the gang are back wreaking havoc in Edinburgh once again, twenty years on from their 1996 drug-fuelled adventure. This sequel is everything I could have hoped for – it’s funny, entertaining, visually sharp and it’s a joy finding out what these characters, now middle-aged, have been up to.
Heading back home after two decades, Renton has swapped heroin for treadmills. Since we last saw him at the end of Trainspotting, he’s been living in Amsterdam, but returns to Edinburgh to reconnect with his old chums. Sick Boy (Miller), nowadays going by his real name Simon, is still scheming. He’s running an extortion business and basically trying to make as much money as he can through illegal means. Spud’s (Bremner) still on heroin, out of work and with an estranged wife and kids. Bad times all round for poor Spud. And for Begbie (Carlyle), he’s exchanged violence for a peaceful existence… I’m just messing with you, he’s still a psycho and hasn’t forgotten about what Renton did to him all those years ago.
While T2 Trainspotting is full of retro energy, visual flair and great gags, the film never comes close to reaching the heights of the original. But that’s okay. I think it’s fair to say that it was literally going to be impossible for Danny Boyle to beat the first one. I don’t see how he could have outdone Trainspotting. So, hoping the sequel will be better is a pivotal mistake. Besides, sequels are very rarely as good, but that’s a whole other conversation.
The film is about enjoying the legacy of these characters, and it explores nostalgia, the disappointments of ageing, masculinity, and how the past is intrinsically linked to the future. The are a range of interesting themes that the film sinks its claws into, although it isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff. Just like the original, it doesn’t have a conventional story in any sense of the word. How the plot unravels I won’t spoil here, but what I will say, is that it involves Begbie’s revenge, and Renton and Sick boy’s shabby bid to raise cash as quickly as possible. It’s all based on Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno.
T2 is reliant on flashbacks and there are various references, so it requires you to have seen the original. If you haven’t seen the first one, then there isn’t much for you here. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it would be pointless watching it. The film was made for the fans. It’s almost like like a love letter to the original. In some instances though, the flashbacks feel overused and they made me wish I was watching the original again.
Each of the characters cling onto memories in different ways, but they all have one thing in common; they’re grown-ups chasing their youth. All the performances are excellent, with Carlyle and Bremner as the stand-outs. The signature song “Lust for life” by Iggy Pop makes a nice reprisal too.
It would have taken something special for T2 to be as good as T1, but it’s still a solid follow-up. While it doesn’t quite recapture the magnetism of the original, it has the same energy and rhythm, further cementing the iconic status of Welsh’s much-loved characters.
Quoted: “You’re an addict, so be addicted. Just be addicted to something else.”
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Ewen McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner.
Writer: Irvine Walsh (novel), John Hodge (screenplay)
Distributors: Sony Pictures Releasing, TriStar Pictures
Run Time: 117 min