20-years have passed and director Danny Boyle decided that the time was right to return to the story that put him on the map and he chose to ignore Welsh's literary sequel. Instead he has created a new story that takes fragments from the book and splices them with an all new - alternative - direction for the characters. Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie (Franco) are back and it's an interesting reunion.
Once I overcame the incredible sense of joy from seeing these characters again I remembered to take stock of the moment and considered whether or not it was a reunion worth having... it was. T2: TRAINSPOTTING is an accomplished and worthy epilogue that avoids mimicry and declares itself to be a legitimate companion with its own worth.
Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh 20-years after the events of the first film and faces up to the friends he stole £12,000 from. Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) is a professional blackmailer and Begbie has escaped from prison – blinded with rage, while Spud (Ewan Bremner) has been tragically stuck in the same vicious cycle of addiction for two decades. Renton looks the pillar of health while the other three have become the victims of time, ravaged from the years of living rough. And so begins a new story that sees them hatching up new schemes with hopes of living large.
The first striking quality about T2: TRAINSPOTTING is the pace. Where the first film was a highly energised experiment in debauchery this new instalment is a much slower ride. Just as the characters have matured, so to has the filmmaking. Employing new – yet equally kinetic – methods of the craft, Danny Boyle has created a sequel that looks back on the previous experience with a nostalgic affection. He places less-than-subtle cues throughout the film that reflect the past events and he teases us with tiny moments of replication, which he retracts in a cheeky tease.
The character developments are tangible and Boyle has put them at the precise place in life where we might have expected them to be. All of the leads step back into character with ease, as though it were yesterday they last wore their shoes. McGregor's Renton might be a new man but his traits and mannerisms are just as we remember. Meanwhile Sick Boy and Spud are exactly the same. They're stuck in the same shit-hole and are incapable of escape. Miller and Bremner embody these characters with a sincerity and earnestness that was absent last time. Bremner's performance is particularly powerful and provides the film an emotional anchor. And then – of course – there's Begbie (now referred to as Franco). Robert Carlyle not only recaptures the insanity of his character but also turns him into absolutely psychopathic lunatic. There are moments where it feels as though he's pushing the vulgarity too far, and yet it feels comfortably placed at the same time. Other side-characters also return such as Kelly MacDonald and Shirley Henderson, although their presence does feel like an cheap piece of tokenism.
Boyle's soundtrack is another standout quality and he has, again, refused to recycle the same formula. It's a new soundtrack with a new style and gone are the 90's pop hits. The energy of the former soundscape has been retained in a new and modern string of songs which suit the new tone, while flecks of familiar riffs are strewn throughout to remind us of a time gone by.
Suffice to say, nostalgia is the key to T2: TRAINSPOTTING's success. Whether or not the new tones and rhythms of the film will sit well with people is another story. Some will embrace the sentiment and appreciate the film's reluctance to rehash old tropes, while others will be disappointed that it strolls it's way to the finish line. Either way, it is a divisive piece of filmmaking that holds its own.