An excellent companion piece to the original, and well worth a visit. (Review by Patrick Compton - 8/10)
It’s right that we should be sceptical about sequels to hit movies. The economic motive is usually paramount and quality is often intermittent or absent. The shining exceptions – The Godfather Part 2 for example – only go to prove the general rule.
Danny Boyle’s original Trainspotting (1996) was iconic in many ways, not least for its hard-nosed ferocity, and many of its fans would have feared a sequel, particularly one to celebrate the original’s 20th anniversary.
Thankfully, this follow-up is not a cynical exercise and doesn’t try to compete with its wild younger brother. In many ways T2 is less a sequel, more a companion piece. Yes, there’s plenty of the same bristling humour, not to mention familiar visual flourishes and an updated rock soundtrack, but this movie is no longer focusing on raw youth blasting their way forward but middle-aged men who are starting to look back on their largely ill-spent lives. As a result, the sequel carries a melancholy strain that was absent in the first film.
The four main characters will be well known to fans. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) once again tread the streets of Edinburgh. But times have changed for Renton, who has been living in Amsterdam. He is healthy, middle-class and straight, no longer running desperately to the sounds of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life. Returning to his home town because of a personal crisis, he discovers that his former friends’ memories are still raw about the drug money he stole from them two decades before.
His mates are still languishing in the nether regions of Edinburgh society. Sick Boy is in the blackmail business, using his Bulgarian girlfriend (Anjela Nedyalkova) to sexually compromise wealthy businessmen. He’s also swopped heroin for cocaine – a marginal improvement in terms of his life expectancy prospects. The semi-pathetic, semi-lovable Spud is still an addict, but he’s battling hard to move forward, having started to write down the stories of his youth. The frightening Begbie, not surprisingly, has spent the interim years in jail, but he quickly escapes and relishes the opportunity to get his revenge on Renton. But, although he has changed the least, even Begbie is given an air of pathos later in the film as he battles with family issues.
The laugh-out-loud black humour is particularly apparent in the first half of the movie which has been (very) loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s novel, Porno, his follow-up to Trainspotting, which imagined his main protagonists 10 rather than 20 years on. Renton’s explosive first meeting with Sick Boy in his virtually deserted pub is a highlight, while his act of saving Spud from committing suicide is played, at least partially, for laughs. “You ruined my life and now you’ve ruined my death,” is Spud’s heartfelt cry.
Boyle establishes self-referential links between the two films with frequent flashbacks that underline contrasts, ironies as well as similarities in his characters. In my view, Bremner steals the film as Spud. It’s a terrific performance, his Buster Keaton-like pose emphasising the character’s fragility but also his determination to turn a new page in his sad life.
If I have any criticisms, it’s that returning screenwriter John Hodge is not interested in the women in the men’s lives, particularly the excellent Kelly Macdonald who was Renton’s romantic interest in the first film. Here she is wasted in one brief scene. Also, the whole issue of Scottish independence is ignored.
Overall, however, T2 is an excellent companion piece to the original, and well worth a visit.
T2 Trainspotting is showing at Cinema Nouveau, Gateway, Musgrave, Pavilion and Suncoast. – Patrick Compton