Twenty years after choosing life, Mark Renton and the gang are back in the sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 hit, ‘Trainspotting’. ‘T2 Trainspotting’ sees Renton return to the streets of Edinburgh and reunite with old friends and foes in the next chapter of this classic story. Though is this sequel, like so many others these days, simply a result of a lack of originality or does it successfully build upon the already critically acclaimed first film?
Despite the twenty year gap between filming the cast are effortlessly able to ease back into their characters helping with the authenticity of the film. Ewan McGregor, easily the most well known of the core actors leads the returning cast well and still has the confidence/arrogance that Renton had in the original film. Ewen Bremner reprises his role as Spud, and still manages to be the most likeable character of the bunch. Despite aging the most Bremner still holds the child like qualities of his character and pulls them off well making for some of the more touching moments in the film. Jonny Lee Miller is back as Sick Boy and probably shows the most character development from the first film, appropriately so considering the events twenty years previously. Sick Boy has lost his charming lightheartedness but this is essential for the narrative here and Lee Miller does well to convey this. Robert Carlyle somehow manages to be even more terrifying as Begbie this time round than he was two decades ago. It was great to see him in this role again and he probably gives the standout performance for me. The group still have good chemistry, naturally it is is a different kind twenty years on but the cast and director nail this aspect. There are other familiar faces present too such as Kelly Macdonald, Shirley Henderson & James Cosmo – none have all that much to do but their involvement offers a nice addition to the continuity of the film.
The end of the first film had always left things open for a sequel and ‘T2 Trainspotting’ is very much a sequel, the narrative crafted here earns its right to existence confidently squashing any fears of unoriginality. The film isn’t afraid to reference its predecessor, in fact it uses the exact footage from it on several occasions. Boyle gets the balance between old and new just right though and it’s clear to see that the same director has hand over both projects. He and writer John Hodge update the film nicely making it seem believable in terms of both narrative and characters. There are plenty of fun throwbacks to the first film, some are very obvious with others being far more subtle but both are very enjoyable. Much like the original film you’ll feel a mixture of emotions whilst watching; humour, disgust, hope, depression etc. which has to be a strength showcasing the complexity of the story and the characters within it. What I particularly enjoyed about this film was the way in which it asks questions of the actions taken by characters in both films but specifically the original. It makes the film a hell of a lot more accessible and offers and interesting dimension to our characters. One other element which was appreciated was the inclusion of one scene from the original novel which wasn’t included in the 1996 movie explaining why the film is called ‘Trainspotting’. It’s well worked and feels like fan service done right.
Much the same can be expected of the soundtrack this time around, continually helping the film to maintain it’s established identity. Boyle clearly has an understanding of this identity and he has been careful but confident with this sequel offering a great example of how to revisit an old film and breathe new life into it despite such a large time gap. Good writing, clever direction and a cast playing such much loved characters so well means ‘T2 Trainspotting’ can be called a worthy sequel and now companion to the original film.
Rating – 8.5/10
Question: What is your favourite Danny Boyle film?
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