First there was an opportunity......then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance. Written by
Sony Pictures Entertainment
A welcome send-off to a beloved ensemble of characters
As we are frequently reminded during the course of T2, it's been 20 years since Danny Boyle's iconic and culturally eye-opening Trainspotting. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his cronies, in a monologue no doubt quotable to anybody who was a teenager in 1996, famously decided not to choose life, and instead were on course for a wasted existence of heroin addiction and crime. The main question asked by this sequel is: Was it worth it? The group fans were so eager to see back together may have less hair and more body fat, but they have finally put aside personal squabbles (McGregor and Boyle made up after the former was overlooked in favour of Leonard Di Caprio for The Beach) and worked around ongoing contracts to reunite. While T2 struggles to find a consistent tone and somewhat falls apart during its final act, it will no doubt put a smile on any fan's face.
The fragility of male machismo and the sudden emergence of middle- age are key themes running throughout the film, constantly harking back and reminding the audience with sly nods of how much fun these guys were 20 years ago. Trainspotting began with a skinny, pale- faced Renton running from store security, but here he runs dead-eyed on a treadmill. Although it would seem that Renton successfully put himself on the straight-and-narrow in Amsterdam after robbing his friends blind at the climax of the first film, he finds himself compelled to visit his past after suffering a medical scare. Returning to Edinburgh, not much has changed. Simon, aka Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), is still running scams, now with his Bulgarian 'girlfriend' Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova); Spud (Ewen Bremner) lives alone and is hated by his embarrassed son, successfully getting himself off heroin before making his way back to it; and the psychopathic Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is behind bars serving a 25 year jail term.
Irvine Welsh's sequel to the hit novel, Porno, has been talked about as a film adaptation ever since the first film struck so many chords with its audience. T2 is not this adaptation, but instead takes inspiration from Porno, as well as unused material from its predecessor, to create an original story. A straight-forward follow- up would not have done the fans justice. The cultural impact was so significant that Trainspotting played a big part in many young people's lives, to the point where just to hear the opening few seconds of Lou Reed's Perfect Day or Underworld's Born Slippy could transport any 30-40 year old back to their youth. Boyle knows this, and teases us in a scene where Renton re-visits his childhood home and fiddles with a record player. The stomping drums of Iggy Pop's Lust for Life pumps out before he suddenly takes the needle off the record. In that split second, the excitement comes flooding back. Yet T2 isn't just a trip down nostalgia lane, it confronts you with the difficult question of whether or not you are where you thought you'd be when life seemed more care-free.
Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle infuses the sequel with a modern energy, opting for a more colourful palette made dirtier with digital grain. It contrasts the films' two different styles by slotting in actual scenes from the original, often juxtaposing events happening now with the characters' memories. The main conflict revolves around Begbie's escape from prison and his learning of Renton's reemergence in Edinburgh, as well as Sick Boy's resentment of his former best friend robbing him of his share in the drug deal gone right. Begbie uneasily shifts between comic relief and genuine antagonist, and Boyle seems unsure what to do with the character. The biggest revelation is Bremner's Spud, who is still the most sympathetic reprobate ever to emerge from Welsh's text. Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge ingeniously find a way to make him front and centre, turning this into his story, and Bremner's performance is truly heartbreaking. A mishandled climax and a lack of development for Veronica means that T2 falls way short of its predecessor, and this will perhaps not have the same impact on any audience members who saw Trainspotting outside of the '90s. But for those of us who did, this is a welcome send-off.
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