Upon the release of the first batch of T2 trailers, the image of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) on a treadmill made me incredibly nervous. I wondered whether T2 would be consumed by the modern way, filled with Apple products, spiralisers and Netflix references. Thankfully, T2’s revival of 90’s lurid grittiness was delivered in abundance to viewers eagerly anticipating the sequel to the film of a generation. T2 self-consciously proves that you can’t always escape your past,but for both Danny Boyle and the skag boys, this proves to not always be a bad thing.
Trainspotting (1996) ends with Renton running off with 16k after a dodgy drug deal involving a very angry Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and Underworld’s iconic Born Slippy. T2 begins by telling us how Rents utilised (or didn’t) his small fortune as he makes his first return to Edinburgh since he left his mates, his skag and his underage girlfriend back in 1996. There’s also a new addition to the gang in the form of the bright-eyed Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), one of Sick Boy’s (Jonny Lee Miller) ‘girls’ that winds up controlling both him and Renton, whilst cultivating a mesmerising friendship with Spud (Euan Bremner).
T2 does not, quite rightly, take itself as seriously as the first film does. It is charmingly aware that it will not be the voice of its generation. For example, Blondie’s Atomic is replaced with Frankie’s Relax. Boyle’s reimagining is more concerned with tapping into the humanity of the often shallow and vapid lead characters, which lends T2 a tenderness only hinted at in its predecessor. The boys are no longer part of a supposedly superficial and excessive Generation X, and this is precisely what they have to come to terms with.
That is not to say T2 doesn’t burst with the energetic brand of cynical, indie wit, characteristic of Irvine Welsh, that elevated the original to cult status. T2 is outright hilarious, with John Hodge once again giving audiences a superlative lesson in the art of screenwriting. Aside from punchy dialogue, the quintessential anti-naturalist style that gave Trainspotting most of its life force is ever present in T2. Danny Boyle’s knack for genius camera work and intense colour (the giant Scooby Doo in 127 Hours springs to mind) feels most at home in the Trainspotting universe. This time, rather than emphasising the otherworldly experience of drug addiction, the camera hones in on the more sterile, even harsher reality of the everyday.
Like the script and the style, it was always the chemistry between the actors that helped make Trainspotting what it was. In 2017, this is as palpable as ever, warmly reuniting fans with old familiar friends that we love to hate and, significantly, hate to love. Euan Bremner, however, is the standout actor of the bunch for his heart-breaking portrayal of cartoonish Spud, who undeservedly has the hardest time of them all in T2.
The addictive energy of T2 pays homage to the magnificence of the first film, having plenty of room to move under its immense shadow. Trainspotting will always be one of, if not the, best examples of contemporary British cinema and I am overjoyed to report that Danny delivers the best final hit we could have asked for. Shocking, unapologetic and thoroughly moving, long live Trainspotting and long live Danny Boyle.