T2 Trainspotting (R21: sexual scenes and drug use)
Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle Directed by Danny Boyle
Produced in 1996 for £2 million (S$3.52 mil), and only the sophomore feature by the Shallow Grave team, the British black comedy caper Trainspotting became the one of the era’s defining films, a vital countercultural call to arms that made empathetic anti-heroes of four deadbeat heroin junkies and stars of the twentysomething actors.
Ewen Bremner is Spud: still lost and gormless, still an addict. Jonny Lee Miller is dapper hustler Sick Boy, now running a sex-and-blackmail scam with his Bulgarian escort girlfriend (Anjela Nedyalkova). Robert Carlyle’s psychopathic Begbie has escaped from prison.
Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge, adapting from Irvine Welsh’s 2002 Trainspotting novel sequel, Porno, bring back the cast to revisit the lifelong friends-turned-enemies in T2 Trainspotting 20 years after Ewan McGregor’s Mark Renton sneaked off with their collective £16,000 drug loot. All the sorrow, vengeful rage, hatred, fear and regret left by Renton’s betrayal coalesce to anarchic effect when Renton returns from Amsterdam to Edinburgh.
Boyle has lost none of his energy or inventiveness, directing the scabrously funny reunion using jump cuts and freeze frames and the trippy fantasy flourishes of his Slumdog Millionaire cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle.
If he fails to recapture the original’s subversive shock, well, that’s because this romp is a reflection on middle-age disappointment, its manic energy driven no longer by youthful insolence but anxiety. Memories are everywhere: in the soundtrack’s blasts of Blondie; scenes of their broken marriages; Super 8 movies of the boys together in primary school, these, most poignant.
But who has the patience for nostalgia? You’d be surprised at how invigorating a two-decade-belated postscript can still be, at how much you enjoy seeing the loser quartet again, and how affecting their lives today of sad desperation. 4/5