Entertainment & Arts

T2 Trainspotting: A giddy high or painful comedown?

Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner and Danny Boyle Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Danny Boyle (r) with Ewan McGregor (l) and Ewen Bremner (c) on the set of T2 Trainspotting

Introducing Thursday night's press screening of T2 Trainspotting in London, director Danny Boyle revealed the questions he had most been asked about the long-awaited sequel to his seminal 1996 film.

Would all the actors from that film be taking part? Would the film's soundtrack be as memorable?

And - most daunting of all - would it be as good as the original?

Two hours later, we had our answers.

Yes, the actors are all present and correct, recreating their iconic characters with an intensity and gusto that is often thrilling to watch.

(Witness the moment when Robert Carlyle's psychotic Begbie - still smarting over the £4,000 Ewan McGregor's Mark Renton stole from him 20 years ago - runs into him unexpectedly in a toilet, or another scene where McGregor bitterly re-drafts his famous "Choose Life" speech.)

'Tourists in their own youth'

Yes, the soundtrack is fantastic, artfully weaving throwbacks to the first film (Lust For Life, Born Slippy) with punchy new tracks from Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers.

Overall, though, is it as good as the original? The answer is no - but it comes pretty darn close.

Boyle's masterstroke is to tackle the passing of time head-on. Where the characters in the original film were blissfully insouciant about their self-destructive hedonism, they are here all too aware of the cul-de-sacs and dead ends at which they've now arrived.

They are, to quote T2's most striking line, "tourists in their own youth": a description that applies just as much to the audience member who goes to the film hoping to have the same giddy high they experienced two decades ago.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The original cast have reunited for the sequel

What we get instead is something altogether richer and more poignant: a love letter to the boundless promise of youth, tinged with the regret of mistakes made and decisions untaken.

The mix of old and new extends to the film's depiction of Edinburgh, a fast-moving blur of sleek trams and posh shops that is a world removed from the shabby, heroin-ravaged dystopia we saw in the original.

Trainspotting arrived at a brief moment in British politics and culture that was infused with energy and optimism. Its follow-up reflects the Britain of today: a divided nation plagued by uncertainty.

It's not a complete downer though, scenes involving bodily fluids, casual violence and incompetent housebreaking providing uproariously funny punctuation to the generally melancholy mood.

T2 Trainspotting won't leave you floating on air. But it will leave you with a smile on your face, a tear in your eye, and a trickle of its predecessor's old adrenaline coursing through your veins.

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