In 1996, the second feature film by relatively unknown British director Danny Boyle premiered at Cannes Film Festival. Although it was shown out of competition, it propelled its director, cast and its now-iconic orange film poster into the limelight. Nearly 20 years later, the whole gang is back for its long-awaited sequel.
Loosely based on Irvine Welsh's novel Porno, T2 Trainspotting sees former heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) return to Edinburgh to make amends with his so-called mates – Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) – 20 years after he ripped them off.
First of all, there is a lot of anticipation for T2 and most of this rests on the fact that it is the sequel to Trainspotting. Since its release, it has been considered one of the greatest British films of all time, and the idea of trying to recapture or even match its intensity 20 years on, while reuniting its original (though much more experienced) cast, is a challenge.
Director Danny Boyle has often said that he would do a sequel when the cast have visibly aged enough to portray the same characters, and now that time has arrived, was it worth the wait?
While Trainspotting celebrates being young, T2 is the cinematic mid-life crisis. Laced with nostalgia, whether it is forgotten memories or opportunities for redemption. Even small mementos from Trainspotting pop up now and again, reminding audiences that there are some things that don't change. The same can be said for the four protagonists; after 20 years, their respective lifestyles and interactions feel like they are clinging onto the only time they felt alive - when they were together. As a result, T2 is a more balanced ensemble piece that provides audiences a chance to properly catch up with the gang, and wallow in their respective misfortunes.
However, the on-screen reunion of McGregor and co. is a welcome one. While they easily slip back into their roles, the actors show a level of maturity that comes with experience. Each of them, especially Bremner and Carlyle, delivers complexity and emotiveness to their characters, showing that there is more to the losers in the first film.
In terms of direction, Boyle goes old school with grainy visuals, creative angles and tense moments that come across as both exciting and sentimental. Throughout T2, he and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle don't try and beautify the film or its cast, and by keeping the action in a stripped-down setting, warts and all, makes it all the more realistic and affecting, with John Hodge's witty, funny and occasionally dark screenplay on-hand to break up the light and heavy-hearted moments,
T2 Trainspotting is like an overdue reality check: chaotic, visceral and laced with nostalgia, Boyle, McGregor and co. deliver a fitting sequel to a classic, while reminding people that good things come to those who wait.
EXTRAS: There's an Audio Commentary with director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge; 20 years in The Making: A Conversation With Danny Boyle and The Cast (24:49); Calton Athletic Documentary: Choosing Endorphins Over Addiction (4:25); and 29 Deleted Scenes (30:11).