UK | 2017 | Directed by Danny Boyle
Logline: Being the continuing misadventures of the main characters from Trainspotting, set twenty years after their first set of exploits.
Nostalgia is heroin for old people, so the saying goes. Indeed, nostalgia can be a real spike of joy for those of us keen to reminisce, to revisit good times past. Generation X are notorious nostalgians, maybe because we’ve seen such massive changes in the way society operates over the past thirty years, the way the sub-cultures have eaten themselves, and shat out strange new permutations of defunct methods to our collective madness.
We live in a cinema age where there are more remakes, re-imaginings, reboots, sequels, and prequels, than anything remotely original. Hollywood jumps on the rights of a successful foreign film so they can churn out an English-language piece of mediocrity faster than forty-eight-frames-a-second. So why did Danny Boyle decide to revisit, arguably, the most cherished from his mixed oeuvre bag? Since Trainspotting (1996) became an instant cult classic with a legacy as potent as a hit from Mother Superior.
Irvine Welsh wrote a sequel to Trainspotting. It was called Porno, published in 2002, set ten years after Trainspotting, and follows the mischief of most of the central characters. Using Porno as a springboard Boyle had been wanting to make a sequel to Trainspotting since 2009. John Hodge had delivered a brilliant screenplay adaptation of the first novel, and, as such, re-wrote an early draft of the sequel, and has crafted a superb follow-up, taking plot points from Porno and fusing them with elements from Trainspotting. It’s a very clever manipulation of giving audiences - especially those who saw the original movie twenty years back - that nostalgia fix, yet also playing on the universal angst and ennui of “What the fuck have I done with my life?”
Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) has returned to Scotland, after living in Amsterdam, for his mother’s funeral. He decides to reunite with Spud (Ewen Bremner), still a junkie and trying to commit suicide. Renton then chooses (life?) to reconnect with Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), who is now a coke addict, running a dilapidated pub, and making dosh from blackmail schemes with young Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Meanwhile Begbie (Robert Carlyle) escapes from prison, and proceeds to return to a life of crime. When he hears that Renton is back in town, he swears bloody murder.
I reviewed Trainspotting back in the day, describing it as “riotously entertaining” and that it was a rarity, living up to the massive hype that it was riding on. I also remarked that it was full of deadly irony, held a sheer exuberance in storytelling, and sported “an eclectic soundtrack, great surreal juxtapositions of sound and image, sharp and cynical dialogue, and exceptional performances”. I feel fairly safe in saying that Leith lightning has struck twice for Mr. Boyle. While T2 might not possess quite the same immediate shock’n’thrill (although it does have its fair share of nudity, profanity, drug use, and violence) which the original movie oozed in such liberal quantities, and one could argue we have been somewhat desensitised in these twenty years since the original movie came out, yet this new set of exploits is just as brilliantly constructed, and just as blackly funny.
Boyle is the English Scorsese, the kind of director Guy Ritchie has always hoped he’d be compared to. The very best movies Boyle has directed; Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and 127 Hours, all exhibit a masterful control of mise-en-scene, of purely cinematic storytelling, each one their own beast, with their own distinct visual style. T2 is proudly a sequel, working alongside the first movie, and interweaving with it too, but it is also a bold stand-alone tale of opportunity and betrayal, of stories told, remembered, re-lived, discarded, treasured.
The ending is perfect.
I’ve not been interested in much of the cast’s careers, but they deliver exemplary work here. The soundtrack is bang on, featuring exciting new music and cool retro classics - Blondie’s “Dreamin’’ and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” - that fit hand in glove, and the cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle is fantastic too.
Give it time, but I know, T2 is another stone cold instant cult classic. Well, definitely for us nostalgians.