The release of this sibling sequel to the original Trainspotting (1996) 20 years on reunites us with familiar associates Renton, Spud, Begbie and Sick Boy. All are older, but... any wiser?
Mark Renton (Ewan MacGregor) escaped at the end of Trainspotting having nicked the loot from a drug deal and legged it; we learn that he's been living in Amsterdam – swapping his heroin habit for miles on the treadmill, but things aren't all as rosy in Renton's middle age as they may first appear. Daniel 'Spud' Murphy (Ewan Bremner) remains at once the tragic and comic clown junky trying and failing at rehab as his life and relationships seem to lie in tatters, his despair is palpable. He's blown the money Renton sent him. Franco Begbie (Robert Carlyle) hasn't moved on because he's been in prison for 15 years, and without parole seemingly faces no escape, making him an angry and dangerous caged psycho (he didn't need any encouragement for this as I recall!). Simon 'Sick Boy' Williamson (Johnny Lee Miller) has taken over his late aunt's pub the 'Port Sunshine' but that delivers meagre pickings (for his cocaine-fuelled lifestyle) so he runs a less than slick sideline in vice and exploitation with his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova).
The narrative and cinematography are suffused with references to the loss of youth and thwarted ambition. Have our 'heroes' evolved? They aren't the same but, shaped by their various disappointments, there are plenty of pent up emotions and frustrations just waiting to burst out. Spud gives a voice to a recurring mantra, "First there was the opportunity; then there was the betrayal"; but this isn't as radical, angry or shocking a film as its younger sibling, which so captured and spoke to a generation just about to get off on 'Cool Britannia'
Screenwriter John Hodge loosely bases his script around Irvine Welch's original novel Trainspotting (1992) and its sequel Porno (2002), but gives us a fresh storyline around the various inter-relationships and a project to redevelop the pub/scam the grant/open a brothel; what could go wrong! Boyle cleverly cuts in elements of the original 1996 film, to evoke the wistful look over the shoulder from middle age.
T2's sound track includes a new rendition by the Prodigy of Iggy Pop's now iconic, 'Lust for Life'. Not perhaps the new soundtrack for the generation next to follow, but an effective underpinning of the pace and energy of this tale.
The relationships between the protagonists, the ties that bind, remain strong even if some of them are vengeful and violent.
In a week which sees the remembrance of Scotland's national poet, Robbie Burns there is a more than a whiff of tartan tinged Proustian nostalgia, but not for madeleines dipped in tea. There are whispers about the opportunity of a 3rd movie, although if that happens I hope it won't be the cause of any betrayal!
This is a funny film with some great laugh out loud moments (Renton and Sick Boy's larks in a Loyalist club and Spud's foray to a boxing club); it's also a poignant film with references back to earlier tragic choices and events (Renton missing his mother's funeral and a memorial trip to Corrour, the remote Highland railway stop by Loch Ossian), and though tinged with sadness it is a worthy sequel to the original. I'm unsure if it can hope to have an impact on a younger audience, but it will be evocative for all the 40-somethings and beyond who were caught up by it in the first place.