Director: Danny Boyle (2017) BBFC cert: 18
There’s a tremendous trepidation in returning to the Edinburgh underworld of Trainspotting twenty one years after the intoxicating original.
How could this long fermenting sequel compete with its predecessor, the defining film of the Britpop era? Trainspotting offered a startlingly stark vision of modern Scotland, a famously ferocious soundtrack and career highs from the actors.
Most sequels offer at best more of the same but bigger, or at worst, cheaper. But I shouldn’t have worried. Danny Boyle has far more ambition. Having allowed the material to seethe and stew, the director cooks up another tremendous prescription of prostitution, pharmaceutical abuse, and violence.
For all the chemistry consumed on screen, the most potent is the one created by the actors. Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle are older, heavier, sadder but not much wiser, as Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie.
All the actors bring a maturity to their work, giving their characters a beaten, weary melancholy beneath their desperate bravado. Noticeably missing from the advertising posters is Renton’s old squeeze, Diane. And her appearance in the film played by the gorgeous Kelly Macdonald, is sadly all too brief.
The most notable addition to the cast is Anjela Nedyalkova, playing a Bulgarian prostitute. The last thing this film needs is another extreme character, and the character of Veronika is continually underplayed. She is the calm centre of the dramatic storm.
After a long absence in Amsterdam, Renton returns home to Edinburgh to find his old friends. He has been living off the cash he robbed from his friends at the end of the first movie. Sick Boy has a grand scheme, Spud is still on smack and the psychopathic Begbie is out of prison and out for revenge on Renton.
Boyle uses Irving Welsh’s novel Porno as a starting point. Then filming in his typically high energy, visually dynamic and musically inspired style, Boyle creates an unapologetically abrasive tale of longevity, loyalty and friendship.
Despite topical references to social media and zero hours contracts,Trainspotting 2 understands it won’t capture the youthful zeitgeist the way Trainspotting did.
Instead it drowns in large shots of regret and guilt at their wasted lives. There is a a great deal of nostalgia also, though thankfully not for their twenties, but for their innocent childhoods and unfulfilled promise.
The sharp and funny script mixes bodily fluids with bile filled dialogue. And it chooses to honour the characters by offering sympathy as they disgrace themselves.
This richer and bleaker film speaks as clearly of the desperate disappointment of middle age as loudly as the first film did of youthful hedonism.
Take a deep breath. Choose cinema. Choose first class. Choose Trainspotting 2.