T2: Trainspotting

 

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Danny Boyle and the original cast return to Edinburgh for a tale of sex, crime, betrayal and retribution.

 
T2 Trainspotting 

Toilet humour: Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle

 
A lot has happened in twenty years. Back in 1996, Scottish drug addict Mark Renton proposed a number of choices. “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

 

Since then – since the release of Trainspotting – Ewan McGregor has been riding the crest of a highly successful movie career and the film’s director, Danny Boyle, has gone from strength to strength, sharpening his reputation and talent with every new project, including the direction of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. He also won an Oscar (for Slumdog Millionaire) and turned down a knighthood.

 

Ewan McGregor and Danny Boyle are reunited for the sequel to Trainspotting, loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s literary follow-up of 2002, Porno. Porn itself does not feature in T2, although the film is not without its seamier elements, with Sickboy (Jonny Lee Miller) in the process of setting up a brothel. Mark Renton himself is now drug-free and has been living in Amsterdam with a wife for 15 years. His return visit to Edinburgh and reconciliation with his old fellow addicts, Sickboy and Spud (Ewen Bremner), does not go exactly according to plan. Neither Spud nor Sickboy (now going by his given name of Simon) are happy to see him, as he ran off with their share of the money from a drug deal. However, after two exceedingly violent reunions, things settle down and an approximation of peace is assumed.

 

Sequels are a notoriously tricky business, but with Danny Boyle behind the camera, working from a screenplay by the original scenarist John Hodge, the first film’s freshness, vitality and visual ingenuity are largely maintained. In fact, from the dynamic opening frames, one can heave a sigh of relief: Danny Boyle is back and undiminished.

 

The ace in the pack, though – at least as a character – is Robert Carlyle’s ‘Franco’ Begbie. Having broken out of prison and become aware of Renton’s return, Begbie coalesces into a firebrand of retribution. And in Carlyle’s hands, he’s a very, very frightening figure. In fact, it is Carlyle who lends the film its narrative traction, while Renton, Spud and Simon do their utmost to keep out of his way. There’s one scene in particular that is a masterclass of cinema, initially hilarious, then terrifying and, finally, ending on a note of comic genius.

 

Ewan McGregor, too, has his moment, when he recycles his iconic speech from the first film ("Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and hope that someone, somewhere cares”). Edinburgh may have cleaned up its act in the interim, but this return to its familiar streets is just as brutal and uncompromising, a splenetic salute to nostalgia.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Anjela Nedyalkova, James Cosmo, Shirley Henderson, Eileen Nicholas, Pauline Turner, Scot Greenan, Irvine Welsh, Steven Robertson.

 

Dir Danny Boyle, Pro Bernard Bellew, Danny Boyle, Christian Colson and Andrew Macdonald, Screenplay John Hodge, Ph Anthony Dod Mantle, Pro Des Patrick Rolfe and Mark Tildesley, Ed Jon Harris, Music Rick Smith, Costumes Rachael Fleming and Steven Noble.

 

Film4/Cloud Eight Films/DNA Films/Decibel Films-Sony Pictures.

117 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 27 January 2017. Cert. 18.