Trainspotting was one of the quintessential moments of British film in the 1990s, helping to define a generation and giving them a voice on the silver screen. It catapulted director Danny Boyle and his cast to international fame, with lead Ewan McGregor reaping the lion’s share of the benefits as it launched his path to stardom.
I was probably just slightly too young to enjoy the original on its initial release, catching it on VHS in around 1999 at the age of 15. But the effects were still strong amongst people my age – the music soundtracked our lives as much as the likes of Morning Glory and Parklife did. The imagery in the advertising campaign was arresting and inescapable. Finally watching the film I was blown away that something so popular was set in a Britain far more familiar than every other British film that seemed readily available at the time, all of which seemed to star Hugh Grant.
When the sequel was announced, there was a certain amount of trepidation from fans of the original. It seemed unlikely that the success of the original could ever be matched. It wouldn’t have the same effect on society. The soundtrack surely wouldn’t be as good. Plus there’s the twenty years of nostalgia to contend with. So how does it stand up?The answer is, thankfully, very well indeed.
The plot centres around Renton (McGregor) returning to Edinburgh for the first time in twenty years, catching up with his old friends Spud (Ewen Bremner), Rent Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlysle). Time has passed and this has inevitably changed the four men, but it has also drastically changed the world around them too. It also hasn’t been long enough for two of the group to forgive Renton for what happened at the end of the first film.
Reimagining their friendship so far down the line when there hasn’t really been a particular push recently for a sequel to be made proves that this film has been made for all the right reasons. Danny Boyle and his team knew there was a story to be told here and it is told brilliantly.
As in the original, music plays a crucial role. There are reimaginings of three of the biggest hits associated with the original: Lust for Life, Born Slippy and Perfect Day. Elsewhere, more modern artists offer more up-to-date contributions from the likes of Young Fathers and Wolf Alice.
It won’t have the same cultural impact as the original, and few films have. It is, however, extremely relevant for those who lived through the first instalment, having an uncanny ability to reflect what has happened to almost everyone in society in the past two decades.
It is undoubtedly one of the best cinematic sequels we’ll see this decade.