After living in Amsterdam for the past twenty years on the loot from his 1996 drug swindle, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh to reconnect with old pals Spud/Daniel (Ewen Bremner) and Sick Boy/Simon (Jonny Lee Miller). Yet as he and Sick Boy move into a business partnership, Begbie (Robert Carylyle), the psycho he double crossed, escapes from prison.
ello Mark, says Jonny Lee Miller’s Simon (aka Sick Boy) to Ewan McGregor’s Renton near the start of T2 Trainspotting. “So what have you been up to… for twenty years?” It’s a question that for a long time felt like it would never get an answer.
Danny Boyle’s 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel became the movie avatar of Cool Britannia, a cultural movement born out of the ashes and anger of Thatcher, hopped up on the sweaty, squalid optimism of dance culture “Drive boy dog boy/Dirty numb angel boy”. Yet a middling follow-up novel (
Porno), well documented director-star complications and plain old fear of botching up a beloved original have kept it from multiplexes. Until now.
In a disjointed start, we learn their fates. Two decades on Renton has swapped running from shop security guards to running on treadmills, the only highs he gets come from endorphine rushes. Since double crossing his best friends in a
drug deal, he has spent his time living in Amsterdam.
Sick Boy is running an extortion business filming the well-off with his prostitute/business partner Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova); Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still on smack and estranged from his wife (Shirley Henderson in a wasted role) and kid.
Pointedly, during Renton’s updating of his Choose Life spiel, he utters “Choose watching history repeat itself”. It’s a mantra that pervades T2 Trainspotting. If T2 is like any sequel it is like Back To The Future Part 2, using the second film to investigate the first, through flashback, music and subtle nods. If the first film is really about the joy of being young.
The hedonism, the mistakes, the camaraderie — T2 is about the disappointments of growing old — the limitations, the regrets, the need for
reconnection. The shared past of these friends is inextricably intertwined in their present and this where the poignancy of the film lives. Bravely Boyle has made a mostly sombre film about how 40something lives work out and it’s well observed and well-acted. Yet is this what you want from a Trainspotting film?
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