Talk about getting the band back together! T2: Trainspotting (the title, according to director Danny Boyle, evolved out of speculation about what the characters themselves would want the film to be called) is a thoroughly justifiable “late” sequel that honours the original impeccably. I got way more than I was expecting; indeed, half a day later, I’m still floored.
It’s as though Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle have been getting together, in character, in Edinburgh, once a month since the original, ground-breaking Trainspotting, or that their characters Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie have simply been alive since then, so true, consistent, authentic and well-conceived are these twenty-year later performances. Like in real life, these people have changed, but they’ve also stayed the same.
The plot isn’t particularly important, but involves the four re-convening in Edinburgh around Sick Boy’s lonely and unprofitable pub which he inherited from an auntie. None of them are happy with what Renton (McGregor) did two decades ago, but Begbie (Carlyle) is particularly pissed off.
The film is hysterically funny. A set-piece about halfway through, involving a bit of robbery, is a masterpiece of building, rolling, cascading comic storytelling, combining visual, aural, narrative, meta, scenic, verbal, physical and intellectual gags told with absolute precision. Doyle has lost none – not a single jot – of his wild stylistic imagination, deploying dreamscapes, visual metaphors, unbelievably perfect snatches of song, different stocks and grains, miniature cameras, human-scale VFX and plenty of footage from the original film to tie them together perfectly, in tone, structure, style and feel. Trainspotting inspired a million imitators, but there has never been a film that captured its unique energy… until this one.
It feels wrong – cheap – to call T2 a sequel. It is a fully realised, artfully motivated catch-up with beloved characters from one of the undeniable classics of cinema. You’ll need to have seen the original to make sense of this one, and to love it immediately, as I did. It may sound grandiloquent, but it is Doyle, McGregor, Bremner and Carlyle’s best work for… twenty years.