Not to be confused with the also excellent T2: Judgement Day (one of the best sci-fi films of all time and James Cameron’s finest hour), T2: Trainspotting 2 is well worth the wait and delivers the goods. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh after 20 years in exile after he robbed his friends for thousands of pounds. The rest of the boys are back (Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie, played perfectly by Robert Carlyle), and they’re not too happy to see him, even though he’s come to return the money that he’s owed them. Betrayals die hard. First there’s opportunity, then the betrayal.
Neither of the other characters are much better off than the original when we see them again. Poor Spud, loveable loser that he is, is still hooked on heroin, and is estranged from his wife and son because of it. He’s taken to boxing (‘Raging Spud’) and eventually starts writing stories, but knowing Spud, he is prone to mishaps and stupid mistakes. Sick Boy is Sick Boy, still scheming, still charismatic and borderline psychopathic, and still scheming as always. This time around, he wants to use government funding to restore and re-open a historic pub as a historic site, which he and Renton secretly plan to turn into a hostel (just another money-making scheme, but seemingly foolproof, or so they think). Perhaps the most engaging role though is played by the psychopathic Francis Begbie (Carlyle), as unhinged and unpredictable as ever, who has recently escaped from jail and has a club and a knife for Renton. I thought he was great in the first Trainspotting film, although it wasn’t the Begbie I pictured in my mind. Carlyle is a great and versatile actor, and you can see the rage in his dark eyes when he enters Begbie mode. After watching Riff Raff, you can see why Danny Boyle would want him for the role. Time really lets him sink into the role – with this film, he’s gained more weight and really fills out his frame. This is the Begbie I’ve always pictured, dangerous and emotionally unstable. There’s a running joke about his erectile dysfunction which probably makes him feel repressed and fuels his rage.
It was also delightful to see the gorgeous Bulgarian newcomer Anjela Nedyalkova as Veronica. She wasn’t in the novel Porno, which alongside Trainspotting, are two of my favourite books, and way more explicit and graphic than the films (I guess Boyle had to tone down some of the content – some of it is pretty nasty). In the novel, the boys try to make a pornographic film in their next get-rich-quick scheme. Veronica is one of the prostitutes in Sick Boy’s brothel and a seemingly to-be madam in their new business. Yet Veronica has a few tricks of her own up her sleeves, and her eventual dupe is the great dramatic irony of the film, but hilarious and very satisfying. Veronica is clever, and she’s a good listener, and you can see in her eyes what she’s really thinking, and Nedyalkova performs the role very skillfully. I was also delighted to see Diane (Kelly Macdonald) again, gorgeous and sexy as ever, and she’s done really well for herself, portraying a lawyer in a surprise cameo (sadly just a cameo; she’s so talented) for Renton and Sick Boy (in the scene, she appears quite jealous about Veronica). I would have loved if her and Renton got together again (very happy that him and Veronica hook up though), but I suppose it would be too nostalgic if that happened. Irvine Welsh also appears again as Mikey Forrester, the heroin dealer from the first film. He appears to have done quite for himself as well, wearing a suit and working at an apparent chop shop.
While T2: Trainspotting is a very nostalgic film, right down to the soundtrack with a remix of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ and Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’, it’s never too nostalgic and heads in its own direction. The new songs really fit the scene (probably the best use of ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood in a film), but it’s very much aware of its contemporary surroundings and how the actors have aged and transformed. Time is an interesting theme in the film, and how the characters come to terms with it, or don’t. Some things never change. This is also a film by a great filmmaker who loves what he does, and you can tell with his highly stylised cinematography, from the static pauses in scenes and superimposed numbers and text and jump cuts. As far as sequels go, I think that T2: Trainspotting is just as good as the first film, and right up there with Prometheus and Mad Max: Fury Road (more great sequels in recent years). I was also pleased to see the poignant scene with the trainspotter and Begbie’s father, which they omitted from the first film but included in the Trainspotting novel. This film is exhilarating, contemplative, vile, disgusting (at least they don’t show anyone shooting up in their penis or pissing in beer bottles like they do in the first book), cold, poignant, and beautiful, and I loved all of it. Choose life. Choose T2: Trainspotting.