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Danny Boyle gets the gang back together for the sequel to the revered adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s acclaimed novel, Trainspotting. T2: Trainspotting (originally Porno) sees a seemingly successful Renton return to Edinburgh, twenty years after stealing the money from his mates and choosing life.
The original and familiar cast assembles once more for a big old hit of nostalgia. McGregor, Carlyle, Miller and Bremner reprise their roles as Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy and Spud respectively as we take a trip down memory lane. Passing by instances of cinematography reminiscent of the original 1996 film and replaying similar moments (the football victory slide, the rebirthing scene now done through a ceiling but with less metaphotical impact, and the ‘choose life’ monologue that inspired a generation, among other call backs to our favourite moments) to knock on the doors of these memorable characters and ask them to come out and play once again.
Performances from all involved are fantastic. We feel the guilt of the much healthier Renton two decades on as he deals with his betrayal towards his two close, childhood friends. We sympathise with suicidal Spud, the nervous fuck-up who can’t do right by his kid, let alone himself. We understand Sick Boy’s anger towards his closest friend and the mixed feelings he embodies concerning the monetary grab-and-run from a man he grew up with. Our stomachs clench in tension whenever Begbie takes the stage, wondering who, why and how the mad man will fly off the handle at next. The underlying theme of friendship, even after considerable time and distance, still burns hot as a needle for at least the former three, each with their own feelings of anguish and a life-lasting bond that is tested as Carlyle’s character busts out of prison to ruin everything.
Trainspotting‘s sequel’s story is an intriguing a nostaglic blast from the past, but this is its main strength, being reliant heavily on the first film; without it, obviously, this film has nowhere to drunkenly sway and hold on to. It is a nice surprise to return to our band of Scottish, drug-addled misfits, and with Irvine Welsh having already written the follow-up novel in 2002, it only makes sense for the original cast to take up the mantles once more, and to be appropriately directed once again by Danny Boyle.
In this sense, the continuation of the story is consistent, the directing is consistent, the performances are consistent, and not to mention there is consistency in cinematography and soundtrack, all of which made the original so unique. It then marks the sequel as a kind of ‘spot the reference’ and snort the nostalgia off the seat of a club toilet. Or rather, they were too preoccupied wondering whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. That is not to say, however, that T2: Trainspotting is not a welcomed reprisal – the plot is fresh and references contemporary ideals and issues, and yet stays familiar and true to its dirty, estate roots. Acting has been honed but maintains that rawness of the first film regardless of the varying degrees of success each actor has attained afterwards, and the theme of friendship is injected with high emotional content into an even deeper vein.
Anthony Dod Mantle perfectly encapsulates the grungy, grainy, greenish and raw aesthetic employed by Brian Tufano, cinematographer for the first film. However, the extent to which Mantle references the visuals of Tufano, a frequent collaborator on other Danny Boyle outings, becomes a little exhaustive, as if the man who offered up the vibrant visuals of Dredd want to pay a little too much in the way of homage to the first film. A referential shot here or there may have made a remarkable fan-pleasing moment, but Mantle seems restrained, intent and content to really drive the visual references home, instead of serving up a hot spoon of his own stylish cinematography notable in 28 Days Later and Antichrist.
Though not quite up to par with the original film, few sequels rarely are. Danny Boyle resurrects characters that we previously presumed long-dead, slugging along or living the dream, and it is touching to see them reunite, all except for Begbie, of course. Whether abusing the film for nostalgic reasons or to see Welsh’s characters continue their chaotic journey through life, T2: Trainspotting should satisfy movie-goers, regardless of the abitrary heavy reliance on memorable moments that made the first movie so iconic.
The Film Fanatic