Danny Boyle’s 1996 cult classic Trainspotting is a film that defined a generation.
20 years later and Scotland sees the return home of Renton (Ewan McGregor) who has been living a drug free life in Amsterdam – ironically. His best mate Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is given a high dosage of sleaze as he snorts his way through lines of cocaine, owning a rundown pub in the middle of decrepit Scottish nowhere, with a weed farm in the basement. The terrifyingly psychopathic Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is free from prison as revenge fuels his every chaotic move.
Gormless Spud (Ewen Bremner) is the only character who is almost exactly the same as before with heroin still being the epicentre of his life but now he comes with an endearingly emotional punch. Each character has their own genius tweak but they collectively ooze mid-life overtones of stale disappointment. Renton’s return uncovers unsettled business and shoots a new lease of life into the crew.
Boyle’s return is superbly stylish, several shots are bedroom-worthy posters. There are brilliantly quirky camera shots and stunning colour palettes, which make this film a visual triumph. But this pristine glossiness is not what made the original movie so iconic.
T2 isn’t true to the original grime of Trainspotting, doing little to recreate its classic moments, such as Renton’s unforgettable plunge through a toilet into the ocean. Indeed, the sequel screams for more dirt.
Since the announcement of the movie’s release, fans have eagerly awaited Boyle’s playlist. And boy is it good. Classics associated with Trainspotting are suitably revamped, with the Prodigy’s remix of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ and Underworld’s ‘Slow Slippy’. Similar flair from pre-noughties music like Blondie, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Queen, also grace the film perfectly and there are new additions from the contemporary music scene, such as Wolf Alice.
But this felt like a missed opportunity for Boyle to stamp a fresh anthem to the prestigious Trainspotting name. The change of era is dealt with in an acutely subtle manner. The film starts with Renton on a treadmill in the gym and later his famous ‘Choose life’ monologue is re-tuned to a more modern melody.
Although Boyle could have emphasised the epochal change more, nostalgia is what makes this film. Footage from the original is included and each piece brings a sentimental feeling.
Despite the jumbled narrative, the triumph of the past supersedes.
Trainspotting was iconic; its sequel is not. But it is hilariously entertaining and it pays as a perfect accompaniment to the original.