T2 TRAINSPOTTING

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In which a good Beg­bie from the fu­ture re­turns to glass en­e­mies, not kill them.

OUT NOW Dig­i­tal HD 5 JUNE DVD BD, 4K Ul­tra EX­TRAS Com­men­tary, Deleted scenes, Fea­turettes

Choose win­ning an Os­car and cre­at­ing the Olympic Open­ing Cer­e­mony. Choose go­ing to Hol­ly­wood and play­ing Sher­lock Holmes or Obi-Wan Kenobi, if you must. But, above all, choose life be­fore bring­ing the gang back to­gether for a se­quel to 1996’s Trainspotting.

It’s the pas­sage of time that gives T2 Trainspotting its sur­pris­ing emo­tional and in­tel­lec­tual heft. This is nei­ther cash-in nor af­ter­thought. It’s a care­fully con­sid­ered se­quel, built not only in the im­age of the char­ac­ters on the screen, but also the au­di­ence watch­ing them. Ev­ery­body’s grown up, but not nec­es­sar­ily moved on: a date movie with an old flame.

“You’re a tourist in your own youth,” Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller)

tells Renton (Ewan McGre­gor) – but aren’t we all? Even down to the tit­u­lar echo of an­other ’90s classic, T2 Trainspotting is a film steeped in the ex­pec­ta­tions of ev­ery­one who grew up with the orig­i­nal as a gen­er­a­tional touch­stone and the stan­dard-bearer for great Bri­tish cinema. There’s al­ways the dan­ger of piss­ing on the legacy, and that goes dou­ble when the char­ac­ters them­selves aren’t the most re­li­able of sorts. For­tu­nately, Danny Boyle and his re­united cast and crew are as­tute enough to un­der­stand that.

Rather than ape Irvine Welsh’s fol­low-up novel, Porno, Boyle leans in­stead into the ear­lier film’s rep­u­ta­tion – us­ing it as sup­port, test­ing it for weak­nesses, si­mul­ta­ne­ously cel­e­brat­ing and cri­tiquing the good old days. This is a very modern, post-Lin­klater se­quel, whose self­anal­y­sis ex­tends to lit­er­ally leav­ing Trainspotting’s ghost up on the screen. The edit­ing finds its rhythm in heart-stop­ping cross-cuts to the orig­i­nal movie, in which paunchy mid­dle-aged stars are haunted by their thin­ner, fresher-faced fore­bears.

STATIC SHOCK

The char­ac­ters, too, are ghosts of their past. Back­story is al­ways tricky to get right in se­quels; here, the tragedy is that there is no back­story. Renton, Sick Boy, Spud (Ewen Brem­ner) and

Beg­bie (Robert Car­lyle) have been locked in dif­fer­ent forms of sta­sis – mar­riage, ad­dic­tion, prison – all brood­ing on the be­trayal that ended Trainspotting. De­spite smart­phones and Snapchat, th­ese guys have barely been touched by to­day’s cul­ture, lit­tle bet­ter than the sec­tar­ian thugs that Renton and Sick Boy rip off, still dream­ing of a near-mytho­log­i­cal Golden Age.

The film’s smartest touch is the in­tro­duc­tion of Veronika (An­jela Nedyalkova), Sick Boy’s Bul­gar­ian girl­friend. The po­lar op­po­site to the guys in gen­der, age and eth­nic­ity, Veronika is the switched-on voice of 2017, dar­ing to con­front their rep­u­ta­tion and see if it still sticks. It’s hard not to see her as Boyle’s self-re­flex­ive voice of dis­sent against Trainspotting’s cast-iron classic sta­tus, and his aware­ness that there’s a new gen­er­a­tion de­ter­mined to do bet­ter.

Per­haps that’s why this blast from the past comes with so much ‘blast’, cour­tesy of Boyle’s re­lent­less en­ergy – when he and his reg­u­lar DoP An­thony Dod Man­tle get to­gether, there isn’t a safe or bor­ing shot in the film. Yet make no mis­take, this is a mid­dle-aged film, and it grad­u­ally slows as the knees give way. Trainspotting was built on mo­men­tum and this can’t com­pete, but there’s an equally sat­is­fy­ing kick to the se­quel’s slow burn, as it set­tles into the lugubri­ous black com­edy of Renton and Sick Boy try­ing to se­cure EU fund­ing for a brothel.

It’s this level of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence that lets you skate past the film’s speed bumps: the bag­gier struc­ture, the re­liance on con­ven­tional (if thor­oughly en­joy­able) set-pieces, such as Renton’s im­pro­vised anti-Catholic sing-song, or the sledge­ham­mer-sub­tle scrap­yard aes­thetic. Mostly, though, it works be­cause it gets the de­tails spot-on, with John Hodge’s screen­play so sharp it can iden­tify char­ac­ters by their choice of swear­word (“cunt”, “prick”).

SPUD DI­A­MOND

That gives the ac­tors enor­mous space to res­ur­rect their youth­ful skins, still re­spec­tively cheeky, cyn­i­cal, rag­ing and hope­less, but able to con­vey a life­time of re­gret in a fur­rowed brow. To some ex­tent, re­gard­less of where they’ve been, the fa­mil­iar­ity of tech­nique and per­for­mance sug­gests the ac­tors have also been try­ing and fail­ing to kick the habit. Have they been wait­ing for an­other spin of ‘Lust For Life’?

There’s such sly link­age be­tween per­former and per­for­mance that the roles be­come vir­tu­ally au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal. McGre­gor/Renton is the prodi­gal son re­turn­ing to his roots and re­dis­cov­er­ing his form. Miller/Sick Boy keeps work­ing, look­ing for the juicy project that will hit the jack­pot. Car­lyle/Beg­bie brings the noise, fun­nier and more sym­pa­thetic than be­fore, an ir­re­sistible bo­gey­man. And Brem­ner/Spud is ig­nored at ev­ery­one’s peril – as the ac­tor most type­cast by his role, there’s a real sat­is­fac­tion to Brem­ner de­liv­er­ing the story’s moral cen­tre. Nos­tal­gia’s a trap – it’s all about what you choose to do with it. Simon Kin­n­ear

‘nei­ther cash-in nor af­ter­thought, this is a care­fully con­sid­ered se­quel’

Renton had thought the queue for the ladies was bad…

TO­GETHER AGAIN Renton and Sick Boy get a few things off their chests, while Spud pon­ders his next move.

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