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United Kingdom 2017
Directed by
Danny Boyle
117 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

T2 Trainspotting

Synopsis: After suffering a near heart-attack and the breakdown of his marriage, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh from Amsterdam where he has been living for the past twenty years after double-crossing his mates, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and Spud (Ewen Bremner). Nothing much has changed.

Sequels are usually re-hashes that try to reproduce as closely as possible the features of the original film and end up with, as Tom Waits puts it, the style but not the grace. Danny Boyle is not a director who you would expect to follow this sorry path and indeed his sequel to his iconic 1996 hit, Trainspotting is proof of how hard he has worked to reward fans who would no doubt have been merciless had he not succeeded to a very high level.

To this point, without ever simply repeating itself, T2 brings back the same characters, puts them in the same fag-end part of Leith and has them behaving badly to the beats of a punchy pop soundtrack and eye-catching visual gimmickry. Boyle and his writer, John Hodges, have quite studiously run the two films together and so we get either direct quotations from the first film, such as Begbie’s pub brawl or re-workings of scenes such as “The Worst Toilet in Scotland”, but these appropriations are always done inventively. Thus T1’s famous “Lust For Life’ opener is split, with the visuals alone used as a flashback, Iggy Pop’s song re-used elsewhere and Rent’s “Choose Life” voice-over re-located and re-invented in a completely new setting in a restaurant in which he is wooing the film’s only significant new character, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Renton’s sometime girlfriend, Diane (Kelly Macdonald), from T1 turns up as corporate lawyer who saves Sick Boy (now Simon) from jail.

The characters, of course, were one of the main draw-cards of the first film and they are as strong here with Spud still on the scag, Sick Boy having graduated to blackmail scams and Begbie even more violent than before. Renton is as, ever, the stoical observer, although in a nice twist, it is Spud who becomes the group’s amanuensis. This time around, there is a more “human” touch to Hodges' script – we scroll back to the lads’ schooldays when their friendships were first formed, learn about Spud’s sense of failure and the origins of Begbie’s sociopathy. Not that Boyle ever loses sight of his main agenda, which is to deliver a irreverently energetic, fun-filled package for fans of the first film.

Although there is simply no way of reproducing the iconoclastic novelty of its forebear and frankly, what was endearingly anti-social behaviour by a bunch of twenty-somethings is far less so in men in their mid-40s (as when they steal the credits cards of a lot of blue collar punters), T2 Trainspotting does its precursor proud. There’s even room for a sequel. 'T3: The Twilight Years'.




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