Director: Danny Boyle
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Twenty years have passed in the lives of audiences and characters alike in this long-awaited sequel to one of the defining films of the mid 90s.
As a result of its absence it necessarily has to contend with being bathed in a pervasive but far from fatal dose of self-nostalgia, not for Cool Britannia or anything so fleeting, but a deep, aching melancholy that makes Trainspotting 2 as poignant as it is funny and exciting.
It’s an intensely sad film, and not simply because of the sight of these middle aged men trying and failing to cling on to their youth. On a much deeper level of resonance, it's about helplessly yearning for the people you loved who are now dead, gone or broken. That makes for a touching, affecting tale and one built, for the most part, around characters.
Friendship and betrayal are the key setup elements, as Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to an Edinburgh that's changed a great deal in the 20 years he’s been away since stealing the proceeds of a drug deal from his friends.
Those friends haven’t changed much – Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) is still a pimp, Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still struggling with addiction and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), still a psycho, is in jail. But Mark’s return sets them on a collision course as they decide whether to choose the future or the past.
Does the “choose life” monologue feel a bit strained? Perhaps, but that doesn't prevent it being one of the film’s highlights, neatly encapsulating lives unlived or unfulfilled while sending up the mundanity and hopelessness the rest of us are mired in.
Like the first film, it suffers slightly when a plot is forced to kick in, and while Begbie hunting down Mark certainly provides meaningful threat and no shortage of thrills and entertainment, the Terminator antics (where it really lives up to its T2 moniker) are a little hard to swallow.
Yet it’s just one of a number of set pieces constructed with mastery by Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge that combine moments of hilarity and horror with a hit of pure cinema, blessed once again with a cracking soundtrack and visuals that are both innovative and able to show off Edinburgh at its finest.
Enormously entertaining, thematically rich and hugely satisfying, it’s hard to imagine how a better job could have been made of T2.