Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle
Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie are back! Twenty years after bailing on his friends and running away with their money, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns home to Edinburgh after a stint of normal life as an accountant in Amsterdam. Ready to face the music from his old friends, Renton finds that while some things have changed since his departure, much has largely stayed the same.
The opening reintroduces the characters by way of a ‘Where Are They Now?’ sort of reveal that, by focusing on the characters individually, splits the narrative into a bunch of different subplots. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still struggling with a heroin addiction. Simon AKA Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) has extended his con artistry to black mail, recording staged trysts with his Bulgarian girlfriend and extorting targets with the salacious footage. And what about Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and his violent temper? Well he’s in prison, of course.
Juggling each of the characters’ narrative threads proves a little too unwieldy and the film sags at times in contrast to the tightly packed original film, which also had a leaner and more energised 90 minute running time. It’s only in the second half when Begbie escapes from prison and plans to exact revenge on Renton that the narrative achieves a forward momentum that comes close to matching the wild, unfettered spirit of the original film.
While the sequel lacks the madcap energy of fleeting youth that the original 1996 film possessed, it trades it off for a more world-weary maturity. The junkie, slacker lifestyle dies hard and with the characters now middle-aged, there’s pervasive cynicism at the heart of the film. What was once youthful frivolity has metamorphosed into a state of arrested development and the film ruminates on the dangers of living in the past. When the crew return to the Scottish highlands to remember their fallen compadre, Tommy, Renton says that they are there as an act of remembrance. Simon on the other hand doesn’t see it the same way. “Nostalgia, that’s why you’re here!” He retorts. “You’re a tourist in your own youth.”
The message is clear for these perennial drifters, fraudsters and addicts; as long as they cling to the past they’ll never be able to truly grow up. It’s a mature outlook that feels like a direct result of the film’s long gestation. So perhaps the two decade wait was intentional as T2 Trainspotting is all the better for it.
Words by Dominic Kwaczynski