It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Danny Boyle wowed a whole generation when Trainspotting burst its way onto our screens bringing Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name vibrantly and rudely to life. Long mooted, the sequel to the cult classic finally sees original cast members Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle and Ewen Bremner reunited with Boyle in T2: Trainspotting and pleasingly, any trepidation fans of the 1996 original may have will immediately vanish into the ether, leaving memories unblemished.
From the outset any of those aforementioned nerves dissipate as we witness Renton (Ewan McGregor) doing his bit to keep fit on a treadmill in a scene reminiscent of the iconic opening of Trainspotting, instantly a nostalgic nod to the original. Returning to Edinburgh for the first time since his self-imposed exile after stealing the money from a drug deal with the boys back in 1996, his first port of call is Spud (Ewen Bremner). Down on his luck with nothing left to live for and still a raving junkie, Renton storms in at just the right time.
Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) on the other hand is still that cheeky chappy with a love of sticking the white powder up his nose. With girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) on his arm he remains very much pissed off that Renton stole his cut of the money. The pair’s first encounter with each other is nothing but an out-and-out brawl of such painful magnitude that the audience feel every last, uncomfortable crack keenly. Luckily, men will be men and they soon kiss and make-up (sort of), teaming up to convert Sick Boy’s pub into a luxury ‘massage parlour’ for Veronika.
Believing himself to be safe from the clutches of Begbie (Robert Carlyle) - who has spent the best part of the last 20 years locked up for his crimes – Renton soon finds himself on a collision course with his psychotic former ‘friend’. But Renton is only a small part of Begbie’s concerns as his son proves to be something of a disappointment.
So, have our disparate gang still got that lust for life? They may be 20 years older but this is a sequel worth its weight in maturity and, while it may lack that gutsy punch of the original, the characters acknowledge that time has taken its toll with no need to attempt to emulate what came before. And while there are times when T2: Trainspotting feels like the Renton and Sick Boy show - most scenes revolve around the pair who, even in middle age, refuse to grow up - the second half spirals into a pit of sadness, the group courageously held together by Spud. Boyle, who has based the film on Welsh’s novel Porno, stays loyal to the first film, creatively and cleverly embedding scenes from the original to provoke memories and tone.
If there had to be one downside to this otherwise perfect sequel, then it’s that the narrative lacks the energy of youth and vitality. Still, this is forgotten once Renton revisits his infamous Choose Life speech, with a modern take that sees him wax lyrical on everything that is so damningly wrong with today’s culture.
Danny Boyle can rest assured that his visitation to this world of lunacy is one sequel that doesn’t outclass its predecessor, but compliments like an ageing fine wine.