T2 Trainspotting (18)
Director Danny Boyle had some proper challenges to overcome in making this long-awaited sequel to his startlingly original 1996 film, which reunites him with writer John Hodge and all four stars.
Ewan McGregor is back as Renton and Robert Carlyle as Begbie, with Jonny Lee Miller again playing ‘Sick Boy’, and Ewen Bremner as ‘Spud’.
For one thing, Boyle and his one-time protege, McGregor, had to get over their long estrangement. But above all he had to ensure that T2 lived up to the first film, which brought Irvine Welsh’s source novel to hyperactive, harrowing life almost as if someone had pumped heroin into its veins.
This one’s clunky title — an in-joke referring to the Terminator movies — isn’t an especially auspicious start. But, otherwise, Boyle pretty much nails it.
Ewan McGregor (left) is back as Renton and Robert Carlyle as Begbie, with Jonny Lee Miller again playing ‘Sick Boy’ (right), and Ewen Bremner as ‘Spud’
T2 doesn’t have anything like the crazy energy of the first film, but then, who among us does retain our youthful vigour after 21 years? In a way, that’s the point.
‘Elegiac’ isn’t really a word that belongs in the same sentence as Begbie and Sick Boy, but the film unmistakeably has that quality of wistful nostalgia.
Two decades have passed since the events of the first film, which ended with Renton doing a bunk with £16,000 of stolen drugs money. Now he’s back in Edinburgh, slightly more respectable than before but still a loser.
One of his old mates, Sick Boy, now runs a blackmailing racket out of his mum’s ramshackle pub in Leith, where the ‘great wave of gentrification is yet to engulf us’.
Another, Spud, is a drug-addled shadow even of his drug-addled former self. And the psychopathic Begbie has been in jail, but escapes in time to pursue Renton with his particular brand of justice.
Insofar as there is a main strand of narrative, Begbie’s revenge is probably it, but the plot, riding on the back of another hit-filled soundtrack (the Clash, Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie), takes plenty of diversions.
Two decades have passed since the events of the first film, which ended with Renton doing a bunk with £16,000 of stolen drugs money
None is more wildly entertaining than when Renton and Sick Boy use an anti-Catholic song to distract the bigoted regulars at a stalwartly Protestant pub, after robbing them blind. It’s a very funny scene.
As well as lots of references to the 1996 film, Boyle cleverly weaves in snippets of old footage. He doesn’t even try to make this work as a standalone feature, and it’s all the stronger for it — though my friend Tony, with whom I saw it, thought it relied too heavily on the original.
Either way, to enjoy this film you really need to have seen the first one. Which in itself is a triumph, because had Boyle not got it right, the equation might have worked very differently, with everyone who enjoyed the first film trailing out of this one, underwhelmed.