Director Danny Boyle delivers what it is easily one of the better sequels of recent memory.
It may seem an odd choice to return to the world of Trainspotting twenty-one years after the fact, but Danny Boyle’s seemingly backwards-named sequel is a lot of things, and ‘unnecessary’ is not one of them.
Naturally, the question arises: is T2 Trainspotting a worthwhile sequel, and is it a worthwhile watch? Yes. To both.
It’s best to go into T2 fresh from having just seen the original in order to get the most out of it. This review will work under the pretence that the reader knows the fate of the characters as far as the original goes – so be warned.
Having finally escaped the filthy, post-punk cesspool of heroin addiction, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Scotland to try and make amends with those he wronged, ‘Sick Boy,’ now going by Simon (Jonny Lee Miller), and ‘Spud’ (Ewan Bremner).
Of course, there’s a considerable problem: Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is out of prison and is still both a psychopath and sore about Renton’s betrayal. For Renton life has changed, but addiction is a cycle. “You’re an addict,” he says, “so be addicted. Just be addicted to something else.”
T2 succeeds in so many ways where a sequel should. It’s Trainspotting for a new generation, with new addictions, but manages to not feel like a cheap reboot. It focuses its attention on middle age; gone are the squalid, washed-out heroin dens, now replaced by revenge porn and blackmail, flashy nightclubs, brothels and grey hair.
It’s difficult to not get lost in its energy, its rhythm. T2 has all the hallmarks of vitality and youthful filmmaking.
Crucially, the characters are in top form. We see their natural evolution – the unbreakable addiction, and the drive to be free of it all. It succeeds in painting a realistic picture of what became of Renton and his old friends. As he triumphantly runs up the hills of Edinburgh, you can’t help but think of the scrawny heroin addict of twenty-one years ago.
Where the original confronted you with the corrupted reality of a vibrant youth, the sequel confronts you with the emotions of moving on – the what-ifs, old flames and the pain and regret of life squandered. But some things, of course, don’t change. “The world has, but I haven’t,” remarks an oddly wistful Begbie.
It is this concoction of characters and energy that makes T2 tick.
It is, by no means, as dark or as vile as the often nightmarish original, but it’s certainly no less deserving of the 18 certificate.
It’s Trainspotting alright, but in its own way. It takes old characters somewhere new, and shows enormous respect for the source material and the audience. It’s easy to just churn out an effortless cash-in, but T2 is far from that. There is life to it.
Choose your sequel.