T2 Trainspotting might have backfired spectacularly. Sequels are dangerous ground at the best of times, but following up one of the best-loved movies of the 90s? Danny Boyle is risking celluloid suicide.
Yet Trainspotting 2 manages to pull it off with a film that is darker, funnier and more soulful. Danny Boyle’s 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s first novel made global stars out of Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle, and indeed, Boyle and Welsh. They’re reunited in a riveting black comedy crime drama about disappointment, depression, despair and middle age regret.
Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns from Amsterdam, where he absconded to after swindling his friends out of £16,000 from a drug deal. Spud (Ewen Bremmer) has spent the intervening twenty years in a spiral of heroin addiction, despite Renton initially giving him his £4,000 cut and shafting Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle.
Sick Boy has been running his aunt’s pub and snorting as much cocaine as he can ill afford, pulling off scams with his exasperated Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Begbie has been doing time, but spectacularly engineers an audacious jailbreak.
Original scriptwriter John Hodge does a terrific job out of very loosely adapting Welsh’s 2002 sequel Porno. In the more than capable hands of Boyle and the original cast, Trainspotting 2 works wonders. Everything falls apart and goes horribly wrong for the four musketeers, but there is also plenty of comedy gold. Renton and Sick Boy target a loyalist pub in Glasgow for one of their scams, and it is one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen.
All the cast deliver magnificent performances, especially McGregor and Carlyle. The soundtrack revisits the original with reworked versions of Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ and Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’, but there is room made for some new gems. The Rubberbandits’ ‘Dad’s Best Friend’ features, and the penultimate track by Wolf Alice, ‘Silk’, is surely destined to become a huge hit. Mercury Prize winning multi-ethnic band Young Fathers, who are the most notable act to come out of Irvine Welsh’s Leith since the Proclaimers, contribute two tracks, including the brilliant ‘Rain and Shine’.
T2 Trainspotting is also extremely moving. “This film is going to be quite emotional for people,” Robert Carlyle has said. “Because the film sort of tells you to think about yourself. You are going to be thinking: ‘Fuck. What have I done with my life?’”
It certainly does, and I love it.
T2 Trainspotting is released in Europe on Friday, January 27, Australia on February 23, and the US on March 17.