With an increasing amount of films relying on nostalgia to engage with audiences, there was an understandable anxiety surrounding Danny Boyle revisiting and potentially undermining the lasting impact of the original, visionary 1996 Trainspotting.
We follow Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) making his journey home to Edinburgh from Amsterdam, where he had set up a new life funded by the money he stole. He soon discovers not much has changed, Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner) is still struggling (despite his best efforts) with heroin addiction. Simon Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller) still lives a life of crime and Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is serving time.
Older but not necessarily wiser, each actor breathes new life into familiar characters, the chemistry between them seemingly hasn’t wavered throughout the years. Simon’s “girlfriend” Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) is a welcome addition to the cast, facing the hand she’s been dealt and not judging the flawed souls surrounding her.
Based again on Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel Trainspotting and his 2002 follow-up Porno, revisiting the past is simultaneously the film’s triumph and weakness. Other than the film’s narrative very closely mirroring its predecessor, discovering how twenty years has ravaged the group is extremely engaging, with Renton’s modified “Choose life” speech ringing with true, sincere disdain for what the 21st century has to offer. Despite its playfulness and comical moments (most of which are provided by Begbie’s manic outbursts), T2 has a lingering sense of sorrow, reflecting on universal themes such as growing older, aspirations and self-acceptance. Playing a vital part once more is T2’s soundtrack, a concoction of remixed favourites from its predecessor as well as contemporary and just as distinct offerings from Wolf Alice and High Contrast.
T2 is arguably an unnecessary sequel, but the evolution (or lack of, in their cases) of familiar characters, along with Danny Boyle’s unmistakable direction, creates a worthy watch, even if it doesn’t pack the punch of the original.