It's been 20 years since the original Trainspotting audaciously pounded down Princes Street to the equally brash beats of Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life". It was bold and unflinching in it's subject and it's execution. Even with splashes of Ken Loach's stark realism and Martin Scorsese's visual flourishes, it was very much it's own film and even now retains all of it's potency. So, understandably, we looked on in worried anticipation as the news came that Danny Boyle was putting the band back together. How do you follow something so unique and influential without being a pastiche or poor knockoff? T2 Trainspotting had it's work cut out.
When Renton and Co unapologetically dragged us through their subculture, they were the drug. The unforgettable music cues, stylish contrasts of squalid realism and metaphorical fantasy and sheer gusto of storytelling was a visceral rush, unseen until that time, but it was the dirty band of ne'er-do-wells that had us hooked. So it is, that after so many years, the core of the story cooks up a hit of something familiar without being overly nostalgic.
20 years on, Renton warily returns home to face his past, as well as his so called mates. The same mates he stole £16,000 from. "Hello Mark," Sick Boy purposefully says to Renton, "What have you been up to...for twenty years?" While this clearly picks up the threads from the original and leaves it's track marks along the arm of this sequel, the core of the story is a surreal look at how time shifts the dynamics of the friendships we hold dear, as well as our values. The reworked and updated "Choose Life..." manifesto suggests compromise and isolation, but the most effective message is is most effectively played out in the relationship between Renton and Sick Boy. While all is not forgiven, the overriding love and nostalgia for one another is the true heart of the film.
Intentionally, T2 Trainspotting may not pack quite the same punch. Like it's main characters, it's older now and even Renton can't quite bring himself to retread Iggy's anthem, but there are some dazzling moments of visual chicanery. There's cameras strapped to mics, putting you right in the moment. A spilt-screen realisation that's both tense and hilarious in it's inevitability. Even when Renton and Sickboy indulge in their old past time, there's an effective upturn of the camera that divide their hedonism and Spud's tortured abstinence.
Even with all the dynamism and the comradery, T2 does falter. Much like the original, there is very little in terms of plot, and while the charismatic cast effortlessly seduce you, there are some scenes that seem like sketches or skits adding little to the proceedings. There's also an underlying melancholy that the cast and dialogue make implicit without the crackly vintage footage of their youth that ultimately falls a little flat. Yet, in true reflection of it's characters, while it's not all it wants to be, it's a blast watching them try.
4* - Junky Old Men