"What you been up to... for 20 years", is a question Johnny Lee Miller's Sick Boy poses to Ewan McGregor's Renton towards the start of T2: Trainspotting. It's a question that fans have since pondered long and hard too, and one that returning director Danny Boyle will finally answer with the long-awaited sequel to the incredible, 1996  cult-classic.

We pick 20 years after the events of the original Trainspotting, and the gang is all back. The opening montage quickly brings us up to speed on where everyone is 2 decades on - Spud (Ewan Bremner) is still a junkie, trying but always inevitably failing to get off smack; Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is trying to refurbish his aunt's old pub and also runs a blackmailing business on the side; Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in prison, still as aggressive as ever, and Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) has since reformed himself, having made a pretty decent life for himself in Amsterdam in the years since he walked out on his friends. However, returning to Edinburgh, and reuniting with his old pals, Renton quickly finds himself entangled back in his old life of madness. Especially when Begbie escapes from prison, hunting him down, desperate for revenge for when he stole the handsome sum of £16,000 from them all 2 decades ago.
Trainspotting was a risky film, from a director and cast many hadn't heard of, a small budget and bold source material, tackling some very difficult material for the time; it was audacious, and it worked. The film proved to be a monumental and global success and is now very much so 'a classic' of its times - a keystone for cinema, let alone British cinema. It even launched the careers of the likes of Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle and turned Danny Boyle into a household director. Ever since the film left us with its ending, fans have since clamoured for a sequel... and 2 decades on, we finally have one. The original Trainspotting is one of my all-time favourite films; ask most people and it'll be up there for them. Naturally, there was a lot of pressure on T2: Trainspotting, not only is it hugely anticipated but it comes with a lot of expectations too, having to follow on the acclaim and success of its 21-year-old predecessor. This could have gone horribly wrong. Thankfully, it didn't. T2: Trainspotting is a very worthy successor to the original Trainspotting; this is an incredible film that, whilst (inevitably) not able to top what came before, builds on it superbly enough to give us everything we would want from a follow-up to it.

Boyle is very much so one of the best directors in the biz. He always has been, and T2 proves he still is. This is a beautifully directed film, with some gorgeous cinematography and visuals, slick editing and a pace and rhythm that is quick and never once lets up. It's been 20 years since we've last revisited these characters and returning feels so natural and seamless to the point where it's as if we never left to begin with. Everything we came to love in the first film is back, whether it's the jet black humour, or the surrealism infused throughout, or the dark tone and hard-hitting themes. T2 has it all in abundance. It's not quite as punchy or flashy as the original but, then again,  does it really need to be? This film is definitely less daring than its predecessor - the word 'audacity' certainly doesn't spring to mind when watching T2. The returning John Hodges' screenplay is mature and sharply-written and builds on the story and the characters from last time but never feels quite as bold our out-there. It's perhaps because, like the now-much-more-famous cast and crew, this feels more mainstream. It has a bigger budget, modern times to adapt to, an industry that's changed drastically since the 90s and it all visibly has its implications on the final cut of the picture. There are elements of this story which feel more cinematic and Hollywood-ised than the simplistic narrative of the original.

T2 is still very much so a Trainspotting film, though. It has the jet-black humour we loved in the original and it's still just as rude and crude and vulgar as we'd want it to be too - the c-word is dropped left, right and centre, and there's a scene which is so bold, it'll have your jaw on the floor. The dark tone, the drugs, violence, betrayal and twisted nature of it all are back, and, like the first time around, the story gets depressing and hard-hitting when it needs to. And it's emotional. It's perhaps made all the more impactful because of how much we invest in these characters, and Hodges' screenplay only builds upon them. We get to see completely different, new sides to these characters that only adds to the nuance of them; they're older, times have changed, and it's great seeing them deal with this. The acting is great too. Our four leads of the original are back, and they're just as good as they were 21years ago. McGregor and Lee Miller bring the wit and the charm, as callous and troublesome as ever; Bremner's Spud adds a lot of levity to the proceedings, with his heart of gold (the only one in the gang) but it's Robert Carlyle that, yet again, steals the show as Begbie. Carlyle steals every scene he is in; he was just a 'dick' in the first film, but here he goes full-on villain and his mere on-screen presence is intimidating. It's so great to see this cast all back and together in these iconic roles.

If Trainspotting was a celebration of youth, then T2 is a bitter reflection of the trepidations of old age. Inevitably, it doesn't top the first film, but it was never able to and never needed to anyway. However, it certainly doesn't tarnish the imprint the 1996 classic had either. Instead, it merely builds and adds to the experience. If there's a flaw to be had with this, it's that the film opts to choose nostalgia over narrative and, whilst the flashbacks and references to the original are nice, it can get a little overbearing and a little much at times. Nostalgia is never a bad thing, though, but you can't help but feel T2 is more so a reunion rather than a continuation at times. Nonetheless, it's still a great film. This is a worthy successor to the 90's cult-classic that has everything we would want from a Trainspotting film, and then some. Oh, and the soundtrack is just as upbeat and ecstatic and punchy as it was in 1996. So damn good. This is hilarious, dark, a little twisted at times, and a very earned return to the lives of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Don't choose life. Choose T2 instead. Because it's damn great and enjoyable film.

VERDICT:

T2: Trainspotting can't live up to the classic but it's still an incredible, worthy follow-up nonetheless. Danny Boyle has struck gold again; this is dark, funny, hard-hitting and just outrageous - in all the best ways possible.



About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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