This is really great. It’s seldom that you see a sequel to a great film which works as a genuine continuation, progression, bookend to the original’s story. The Godfather Part II is the gold standards of film sequels, and that one was all of two years after its groundbreaking original. Sometimes you see long-in-gestation sequels and it may work, like The Force Awakens, or it may stand as a work on its own (The Color of Money jumps to mind)… but think of all those films, years hence that just failed to capture the magic of the original; the ones that just didn’t add anything to the process – the ones that just had the key players come back and look old, fat and tired?
The great thing about T2 Trainspotting (stupid, stupid title – and probably different in every region the film is being released) is that everyone on board – from director Danny Boyle on down – is there not for the money, one might presume. It’s not a twee, condescending case of cinematic opportunism and 90s nostalgia. The film works on its own right, and is filled with notes (visual and sonic) referencing the original, but in a way suggesting a grander, mature evolution of all involved.
The original 1996 film was horrific in many senses; visually alive and confronting in its harsh reality – the very last thing in the world it actually did was ‘glamourize’ heroin addiction. Certain images and moments flood back when you consider the film retroactively: Spud’s ‘morning accident’; ‘the worst toilet in Scotland’; ‘Choose life’; the dead baby. Horrific, but at the same time, pulsating with life and a kind of cinematic urgency that (at worst) assumes cult status, but at best ushers in a new look and movement in film. Danny Boyle went on to do bigger, grander things (Slumdog Millionaire, for all its accolades may be the least of his efforts; “My brother just got gunned down in a bath full of bank notes, but at least I got the girl… let’s dance!”). The way T2 references that film, the allusions it makes to it, and how the four main protagonists are depicted as having been weathered by years of neglect and bitterness renders this film the perfect second part of a pair of film bookends.
Propelled by the original into movie stardom, Ewan McGregor’s return as Renton makes a solid mark on the film – he was full of enthusiasm at the end of the original, despite having just shafted two of his best mates; 20 years hence he’s at a loose end, in a mid-life crisis and without real purpose in his mid-40s. Johnny Lee Miller, as Sick Boy, embodies that same dissatisfaction with his lot in life, reduced to a life of extortion when managing a pub doesn’t cut it. Ewen Bremner is wonderful as Spud – a perpetual loser. And Robert Carlyle is Begbie; a psychopath rendered worse for 20 years behind bars. He’s glorious in this.
Nothing is lost here, it all works smashingly well. It’s a tip of the hat to a vaunted classic, all the while having a narrative, purpose and value all of its own. It’s perhaps one of the most satisfying sequels that I’ve seen. Outstanding.