Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Cert: 18 Running Time: 117 mins
Release Date: 27th January 2017
The original Trainspotting was a visceral thumping heartbeat of a film, with breakout performances and a soundtrack that defined the times. Even the marketing was standout, from the black and white character driven art with its shot of neon orange introducing its bunch of losers, misfits and psychos. It was never a film that screamed for a sequel, a carbon-copy cash-in that would see them all return for another slice of devilment. The film didn’t need it. Yet there is something powerful in experiencing it now after a twenty year gap in the story, inviting a heady hit of nostalgia that completely pays off.
As before the story circles Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) as he returns to Edinburgh for a short trip home from the Netherlands. Feeling reflective after a minor health scare, he decides to track down his old pals. Unlike Mark, Spud (Ewen Bremner) never managed to get off the heroin and it has for 20 years sucked everything good from his life like a vampire. He lives in tower block squalor estranged from his wife Gail (Shirley Henderson) and their teenage son. Unemployed and unemployable, he goes from one hit to the next.
Sickboy/Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) on the other hand has a thriving enterprise in blackmail – a honey trap with hooker girlfriend Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova) extorting money from well-to-do pillars of society who enjoy a bit of kink on the side. Simon himself is a slave to it, using the money to fuel a cocaine addiction and living in a general spiral he can’t escape, running his Aunt’s pub down the docks. It’s an empty shell and so is he.
And then there’s Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Unchanged, he’s still a ball of angry testosterone, ready to go batshit crazy on someone for looking sideways at him. He’s spent the last 20 years in prison and seeing a chance at escape he finds himself back in his old hunting ground and on the trail of the returned Renton, who ran off with his cash two decades earlier.
Based on Irvine Welsh’s 2002 novel ‘Porno’, writer John Hodge has again proved himself a masterful adapter of his work. It’s a provocative, funny, weird, violent odyssey of a script that deftly juggles moments of poignancy and hilarity, laying the foundation for great performances, all set to the beat of director Danny Boyle’s incredible vision. Yes, it is another slice of Edinburgh devilment, but it stabs deep beyond the instant gratification of a good joke and crawls under the skin of each one of them. Boyle deliberately teases the audience with glimpses from the first film and a haunting of notes from the first soundtrack used sparingly and to great effect.
McGregor, Lee Miller, Bremner and Carlyle are all terrific, while Nedyalkova shines in a role given more light and shade than perhaps other writers would have afforded. And then there’s that speech. It’s almost a parody at first. Veronica asks Mark what the ‘Choose Life’ slogan means and so begins an updated rant from McGregor that is scarily precise, a dose of nostalgia bang up to the date.
If you liked the first film, you’ll love this one. As Empire magazine put it all those years ago – “Trainspotting is here and its toe-curlingly good”. So’s the sequel. See it immediately.
Time waits for no man.