T2 Trainspotting

★ ★ ★ ★

Twenty-one years on from the full on frontal assault that was "Trainspotting," the old gang is back together but the only things that truly binds them is a shared past. “You're a tourist in your own youth,” says Sick Boy/Simon (Jonny Lee Miller).

At the center of it all is Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor). The last time we saw him he was a wastrel and double-crosser who cheated his friends out of £16,000 in a drug deal. After hightailing it to Amsterdam he's now a fitness freak who spends more time running in a treadmill than running from the law.

His former friends, now all in their forties, are in various states of personal disrepair. “The wave of gentrification has yet to wash over us,” Simon quips.

Sick Boy/Simon is still a dodgy dude with a King Kong size Coke problem, who makes ends meet by blackmailing the wealthy customers of his prostitute business partner Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova).

Spud/Daniel (Ewen Bremner), still an impressive mash-up of ears, teeth and gangly limbs, is now a pathetic creature that chooses heroin addiction over a life with his wife Shirley Henderson) and child.

The fourth member of the group, Begbie (Robert Carlyle), he of the bad attitude and broken pint glasses to the face, is indisposed, locked up but with a way out and a gut full of hate for Renton.

Loosely based on author Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting" follow-up novel "Porno," the new film from Danny Boyle, asks if it is ever possible to go home again—in this case Edinburgh—especially if home involves a dangerous psychopath with a grudge and an ex-BFF who wants revenge.

“T2 Trainspotting” does something quite remarkable. It places nostalgia in the rear view mirror while, at the same time, celebrating bygone days. To see Mark confront his past complete with the emotional attachments and entanglements that come along with it feels like a universal reckoning, a reminder that the world changes even if we don’t.

That’s the beating heart of the film, the rest is window dressing, It’s fun to hang out with these almost lovable villains for a couple more hours, to catch up on old times, immerse ourselves in their down-and-dirty lives and even get a new Choose Life riff but a heavy air of regret hangs over the proceedings. It reinforces the idea that we can’t relive the glory days no matter how hard we try. It’s a middle-age truism brought to vivid life by Boyle and cast.  

In revisiting the past the director does, however, put an intimate spin on the story with clever visual integration of past memories—present day characters mournfully share the screen with their younger counterparts—and a melancholy sense that no matter how hard we try to move forward ultimately our lives are simply a continuation of everything that came before. As Renton says, “choose history repeating itself.” It’s not a thunderbolt revelation but revisiting these characters—particularly the tragicomic Spud—puts a face to those anchored in the nostalgia.

For fans of the original film “T2 Trainspotting” will be an enjoyable ride. It is as good a sequel to a classic film as you could hope for. It’s a shame the returning female characters played by Kelly MacDonald and Shirley Henderson are relegated to cameos and the original’s sense of infectious anarchy has been dulled somewhat but the film’s mix of redemption and regret are ample replacements.      

4 STARS