Review: T2 Trainspotting (2017)

A worthy successor to the 1996 cult classic

Burns Night, Independence, Celtic v Rangers – all very much part of the fabric of Scotland today. But none of it has really mattered lately because many north of the border – along with plenty around the world – have been ecstatic at the release of T2, the sequel to 1996’s Trainspotting. So has the long wait been worth it? You bet it has!

Yep, the return of Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Begby (Robert Carlyle) and Spud (Ewen Bremner) is yet another resounding success for director Danny Boyle. It will introduce a whole new generation to the fab four, although some fans of Elementary will no doubt be left wondering whether Miller is actually Scottish rather than English.

But before anything else, let’s put one myth to bed. It’s been said by some that you don’t need to have seen the first instalment to appreciate this follow-up, but that’s not strictly true. Okay, it’s not imperative that you start at the beginning, but it would go a long way towards full appreciation. There are so many references to the original that it would be very easy to lose track of things, but on the other hand Irvine Welsh‘s Porno, the novel upon which T2 is based, has been suitably adapted to fit into the present.

Anyway, there’s nothing we can do about an audience’s lack of familiarity, so let’s get on with the positives because there many. One of the main cast members has turned in an even better performance this time. McGregor was always going to be hard-pressed to improve, but his reprisal of Mark Renton does at least represent his finest moment for a few years. Carlyle and Miller have equalled past glories, but it’s Bremner as the awkward Spud who really shines. The movie almost ends up centering around him, such is the depth of his portrayal, and despite the character’s frailties you end up rooting for him rather than feeling constant pity as in Trainspotting.

This is all backed by yet another cracking, cutting-edge soundtrack and even a short history lesson in one scene. Boyle’s trademark frenetic energy is very much evident, but the direction is still able to switch from chaotic to understated at the drop of a hat. Yet to be a true success, T2 needed to be more than just a trip down memory lane; it had to have relevance in abundance. Happily, this is the case thanks in no small part to burning 21st-century topics being cleverly woven into the tapestry. Social media, struggling pubs and revenge porn not only provide a new backdrop, but also help the film provide an interesting snapshot of society today.

This is by no means as gritty and innovative as its predecessor, but then again maybe that’s just down to the 1990s being a grittier and more innovative time, totally unique in terms of its culture. It’s an unfair comparison whichever way you look at it and, while it could never be a true stand-alone picture, T2 needed to be made and film in 2017 will be all the better for it.

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