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T2 Trainspotting

T2 Trainspotting

Released 27 January 2017
Director Danny Boyle

Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Shirley Henderson, Anjela Nedyalkova
Writer(s) John Hodge

Bernard Bellew, Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Andrew Macdonald
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 117 minutes
Genre Drama

Off the rails.

It’s been twenty years since Trainspotting was released and just about as many years since I saw the film. In the interim, the details have more or less faded in my mind; all that is left is 'Choose Life', Ewan McGregor sprinting through Edinburgh in skinny jeans and that iconic poster that still adorns many a college dorm room. Strangely, in my head, the true squalor and moral bankruptcy of that film had been almost forgotten. Rewatching it today, particularly when placed in direct comparison with its sequel, I was gobsmacked by how brutal and disturbing it really is. Clearly though, it is not just me who has softened over the past two decades; T2 Trainspotting feels an age away from the angry, uncompromising filmmaking of the original.

The film is loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno but actually departs quite significantly from its plot. It’s been twenty years since Renton left Edinburgh with the stolen proceeds of a drug deal. He is now clean, with the appearance of health and success. Renton attempts to reconnect with his estranged best friends Simon aka Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), who now runs blackmailing scams alongside his escort girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) and Spud (Ewan Bremner), still a suicidal drug addict. While Spud is delighted to see Renton again, Simon cannot forgive his friend and begins to plot revenge. Meanwhile, psychotic Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has escaped from prison and is out for blood.

What a difference twenty years make. The same visual tics (freeze frames, fantasy sequences) that were once so exciting, now feel a little trite, that’s to say nothing of the cliche super 8 flashbacks to the cast as young children. The escapades of the characters now seem less life and death and more eccentric capers - like a cocaine fuelled Last of the Summer Wine. In short, the film feels very middle aged....but isn’t that the point? This is no longer a tale of irresponsible youth but of desperate masculinity - of realising that the party is over and everyone else has moved on. As a concept, this is irresistible but its execution in T2 is all surface. Ideas are recycled and moments of emotional clarity come unearned. Perhaps most egregious is the short shrift given to the excellent Shirley Henderson and Kelly Macdonald, who are barely included in a narrative that heavily favours a tedious love triangle between Renton, Simon and Veronika.

These myriad problems are balanced with a heavy dose of nostalgic charm. The script is snappy and cutting, the direction is stylish and the acting (bar the lacklustre Nedyalkova) is uniformly great. You can tell how excited this cast is to revisit the film that made them and up to a point, this is enough. As the sequel to a modern classic however, T2 never reaches the heights, or indeed depths of its predecessor.

- Linda O’Brien