It’s been 20 years since Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s classic novel embodied the spirit of Cool Britannia. And now Boyle is back with a sequel, loosely adapted from Welsh’s own sequel, Porno, but the story was largely created by writer John Hodge.
It’s always tricky to revisit such a popular film after all this time, we’ve seen this fail countless times recently. It’s a fine balance between recapturing what made the original so special, and also making it new and not only rehashing old material. Thankfully this is a line that T2 manages to walk pretty well. There are plenty of good nostalgic hits in there, but it doesn’t follow exactly what we’ve seen before. As much a look at how the 20 years have changed these characters as it is a nostalgic sequel. Renton has kicked his heroin habit, whilst Spud is still struggling with his. Meanwhile Sick Boy and Begbie are consumed with a desire for revenge on Renton after the events of the first film.
What really impresses about T2 is how well it recaptures the tone of the original. It’s a brilliantly funny film, capturing the typical black comedy of Welsh’s work. But it also gets far more to the heart of the friendships between the characters. It really dives deep into Renton and Sick Boy’s history and their relationship as friends/enemies. We get more of a sense of Begbie as a fully three-dimensional character as the film explores his family relationship, particularly that with his son.
The central cast is all back. Ewen McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Ewen Bremner all fall right back into those roles. They all have gone on to other big roles in their career, but none of them miss a beat coming back. It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since they last played these roles; they are so comfortable in them. But its Bremner who is the real star of the film. He brings so much of the emotion and heart into the story. On top of this the addition of Anjela Nedyalkova as Veronika brings a really interesting new dimension to the film.
It’s not a perfect film. There are times where the film tries to play too much into nostalgia. The brief return of Kelly Macdonald’s Diane just feels forced, and like it was included just to add a connection to the original film. By contrast there is an updated version of the ‘Choose Life’ speech that feels like it was added far more organically. The ending of the film does feel a little close to that of the original film in part, but it also has a far more direct confrontation between the group that manages to resolves the story from the first.
If you’re a fan of the original Trainspotting then T2 is probably going to hit the boxes for you. It might never reach the heights of Trainspotting. But it’s funny, it’s moving, it’s nostalgic, and it’s an absolute blast.