“Let’s bunk off work and go and see T2 Trainspotting,” said my friend to me.
“Good idea!” I said. “After all, this is Scotland, and it’s compulsory. We’ll go now, before they send the squad round to frog-march us to the cinema.”
T2 Trainspotting is a sentimental money-spinner with none of the freshness of the 1996 original. It is based – so goes the claim – on Irvine Welsh’s books Porno and, well, yes, Trainspotting, but in attempting to make some kind of twenty-years-on movie script out of a mere couple of plot elements from what is a good stand-alone novel, albeit one that does feature most of the same characters as appeared in the novel Trainspotting, and flashbacks to the first film, what emerges is something rather thin.
The whole tension of the film is made to revolve around resentment for Renton’s having walked off with everybody’s money. As the film moves forward, we are presented with geographical ‘fixers’ – shots of Edinburgh’s trams, a sprint up Salisbury Crags – but we still make a game out of trying to spot which scenes were actually shot in Glasgow. Yes, just like the first movie, they pull that stunt too. in case we get bored with that game, and with counting the number of times that there’s a cut to a scene from the first film, the savvy amongst us can simply spot references to that film. The Worst Toilet in Scotland? Yep, it’s in line for ‘Best Supporting Actor’.
Begbie having escaped from prison, goes home. The Police never knock at his door. Maybe they can’t be arsed, but really? Author Irvine Welsh makes a cameo appearance – he’s easy to spot, as he’s the one who cannae act! “Let’s find some way of putting Diane in the film,” said someone, no doubt, in a script conference. “I know,” said someone else, “let’s have her as a posh lawyer the guys have to consult when things go tits-up!” So that’s her scene in the film sorted. Begbie does very little except chase round Edinburgh trying to lay his hands on Renton for the sole purpose of killing him, and thus the unpredictable psychopathy of the younger Begbie is translated into something like a constant state of rage, which is rather a waste of Robert Carlyle’s acting talent.
There is violence and drug abuse and such, but you know that because this is a black comedy there is a line of grossness that will not be crossed, so it’s okay to keep watching, okay to fall for the moments where you can’t help laughing. Everybody tries to cheat everybody else, and they all end up cheated, by Veronika, Sick Boy’s Bulgarian girlfriend. Spud has been writing his memoirs on pieces of yellow notepaper – they become a novel-sized sheaf, and when he shows them to his estranged wife Gail she says “I know what you can call this.” Yeah, let’s call the film How ‘Trainspotting’ Came To Be Written!
I called the film sentimental. Bits of that work – you’ll want to take Spud home and cuddle him. Bits of it don’t – like the journey to the Highlands to commemorate Tommy. The scene where Renton and Sick Boy are trapped into improvising a song about the Battle of the Boyne in a Protestant pub is bloody hilarious. There are plenty of other laughs throughout the film, and there are resolutions at the end. But I took very little away from it, whereas the image of the young, stick-thin Renton sprawled on the bonnet of a car, panting and grinning, will never leave my mind’s eye. This is not 1996. Maybe the film is about not recapturing that…
Look, I have to knock two stars off this one for the flaws I have driven a Stagecoach bus through. Nevertheless, if I could give one back for the simple reason that it is actually highly enjoyable, I would. So do go and see it. Oh, and the soundtrack is utterly mental!
Renton – Ewan McGregor
Simon (‘Sick Boy) – Johnny Lee Miller
Spud – Ewen Bremner
Begbie – Robert Carlyle
Veronika – Anjela Nedyalkova
Mikey Forrester – Irvine Welsh
Gail – Shirley Henderson
Diane – Kelly Macdonald
T2 Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, 2017
PS. Veronika is a crucial character, has almost as many lines as the male stars, and yet there is hardly a single promotional picture of her out there. Begbie, Spud, Renton, and Simon are all over the place. Ask why.