T2: Trainspotting, review

Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle have each said they approached T2: Trainspotting with some trepidation. And not without reason. Its parent film, based on Leith author Irvine Welsh’s novel, became a cult classic, made household names of its cast, and is now widely considered as one of the greatest British films of all time. No pressure, then.

Here’s the good news. Far from destroying its predecessor’s legacy, T2 actually builds on it, with director Danny Boyle delivering what is easily one of the better sequels in recent memory. Whereas the first Trainspotting was a dark, twisted and often brutal black comedy which centered around a group of heroin users in Edinburgh, T2 is a dark, twisted and often brutal black comedy about midlife crises and fear of death.

It’s 20 years since we met the film’s four main protagonists on the big screen, but not that much has changed for the ‘boys’. Begbie (Carlyle) is still a total nutjob; Sick Boy (Miller), or Simon as he now likes to be known, is still out to make a quick buck whenever he can, Spud (Bremner) hasn’t been able to get off the smack; and Renton (McGregor), who legged it to Amsterdam with his mates’ money at the end of the first film, is back in Edinburgh after the break-up of his marriage.

‘Rent boy’ has been drug-free for years and wants to make amends with his friends – though there is one major, mustachioed obstacle standing in his way. That’s right, Begbie has freshly escaped from Her Majesty’s Pleasure, and everyone’s favourite psycho is not in forgiving mood. When ‘Franco’ hears that Renton is back in Auld Reekie, he’s got one thing in mind – taking his bloody revenge on the man who pocketed £4,000 from him.

We won’t give away any spoilers here, but you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that Begbie and Renton cross paths in T2. And when they do, all hell breaks loose. What we can say is that T2 is a pacey, well-made sequel that’s every bit as good as fans could have possibly hoped. Better perhaps. Crucially, the characters are in top form. Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie may all be two decades older, but seeing them together again on the big screen is like being reunited with old friends.

Like the first film, T2 has the feel of one long, expensive and incredible-to-watch pop video. John Hodge’s screenplay, adapted partly from Welsh’s book Porno, moves at a rate of noughts, while the soundtrack is bang on the money and will become a big hit in its own right.

T2 is full of laugh-out-loud humour and is no way as dark as its predecessor – but it’s still fully deserving of its 18 certificate. Granted, Boyle’s film is unlikely to define a generation in the same way as the original (T1 was, as Bremner put it, “an exotic bomb that went off in the culture”), but it’s more than worthy of your time.

Speaking at the film’s premiere in Edinburgh last week, Carlyle said he’s keen to bring his character back to the big screen for a third time. Let us have it, Begbie.

Words: Marius McKee

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