How do you possibly top a film from 21 years ago that stands in the annuls of British cinema history as a true modern-day classic? You’d think that was a tough ask, yet Danny Boyle manages to make it seem effortless with his sequel to 1996’s Trainspotting.
Picking up the action two decades since we last saw our familiar bunch of rascals, here we see chickens come home to roost and some major consequences play out for the remaining members of Boyle’s original movie. When Renton (Ewan McGregor) ends up coming home after 20 years living in Amsterdam, the pieces are picked up and old relationships, for better or for worse, are revisited. Remember, the end of Trainspotting saw Renton making off with a whole boatload of his pals’ money, and his old friends are keen to remind him of that at every turn.
In the landscape of modern cinema, it often feels as if sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes are needlessly peddled out just for the sake of a few extra quid. Given that T2 (not to be confused with Das Arnold and his 1991 shenanigans) is a film put out nearly 21 years after its predecessor, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was yet another bland follow-up put out to capitalise on the name value of an existing movie. Luckily, you’d be wrong on that assumption, for Trainspotting 2 is a film that delivers with stunning veracity and consistency.
What marks this film as different to Danny Boyle’s ’96 classic is that at the heart of the matter is the bond and lifelong friendship between Renton and Simon (Jonny Lee Miller – and don’t call him Sick Boy!). While the first film largely felt like a well-spread ensemble effort, so much of T2 rests on the shoulders of the dynamic between these two key cogs. But that’s not to say that the other characters don’t get their time to shine, with Spud (Ewen Bremner) still battling his needle-injecting demons two decades on and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) out for vengeance on Renton for how things ended up at the close of the original Trainspotting.
Tinged in nods to the 1996 movie yet a completely new beast of its own, Trainspotting 2 is a true masterclass in cinema. Danny Boyle has clearly taken all of the tricks that he’s learnt since the first film and brought them to the fore here, with the editing and visuals on show absolutely mesmerising. From its long panning shots across the glorious Scottish skyline, to its intimate, grimy and desolate moments, T2 never fails to amaze with its scope and intricacy. This is a director who is 20 years further along in his craft – as are our returning core group of actors – and it shows at every corner.
In different hands, Trainspotting 2 could’ve easily been a sequel that nobody wanted, nobody called for, and nobody realistically expected. Instead, it’s an insta-classic piece of filmmaking, perfectly capturing the spirit and personality of the original yet somehow making you feel engaged and interested in a follow-up that, let’s face it, you likely didn’t have the need to see.
Since making a name for himself with the likes of Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary, Danny Boyle has gone on to crack Hollywood and become a huge name in global cinema. With Trainspotting 2, though, Boyle shows that he never ever lost the charm, skill, confidence and bravery that got him to the dance in the first place, and this really is one of those few times where a sequel – especially one that’s been two decades in the making – matches its predecessor.
If offered the opportunity then you may not have given this follow-up much of a chance in years gone by, but take it from us, choosing this sequel is something that you won’t regret. Smothered in its own history yet stepping out of its drug-riddled past (for the most part), Trainspotting 2 is already cemented as one of 2017’s must-see movies.
T2 TRAINSPOTTING / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: DANNY BOYLE / SCREENPLAY: JOHN HODGE / STARRING: EWAN MCGREGOR, JONNY LEE MILLER, EWEN BREMNER, ROBERT CARLYLE, ANJELA NEDYALKOVA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10