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T2 Trainspotting – Channel 4

Ewan McGregor and Ewan Bremner set on a hill above Edinburgh admiring the view
(Image credit: Graeme Hunter Pictures)

A darkly comic sequel to the iconic 1990s cult hit. 4/5 stars

Danny Boyle's anarchic 1996 adaptation of Irving Welsh's cult novel Trainspotting was one of the decade's most iconic and exhilarating movies, capturing the zeitgeist with an audacious mix of the squalid and surreal as it showed a bunch of young Edinburgh junkies rushing headlong towards self-destruction. Pulling off a successful sequel was always going to be a tall order. But Boyle and his reunited stars have done it with a movie that tears into its characters' nostalgia for the past - and our own - with darkly comic gusto.

Twenty years have passed and Ewan McGregor's Renton returns to Edinburgh from Amsterdam, looking to make amends with the pals he ripped off over that drug deal two decades earlier. As you might expect, his reunions with Ewen Bremner's dim-bulb Spud, Johnny Lee Miller's sardonic Sick Boy and Robert Carlyle's psychotic Begbie are highly combustible.

Now middle-aged, the gang are certainly older but not necessarily any wiser. Spud is back on heroin; Begbie is fresh out of prison; and Sick Boy is striving to set up a brothel in the decrepit pub he has inherited from an aunt, with the aid of his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Inevitably, their present circumstances give an ironic edge to a series of nods to the first film, starting with an opening scene that finds Renton pounding away on a gym treadmill rather than sprinting hell-for-leather through the Edinburgh streets, and later giving us a jaundiced update of his famous 'Choose life' speech.

Throughout, Boyle's customary visual swagger is much in evidence, yet if T2 doesn't entirely recapture its predecessor's giddy rush, well that surely is the point.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.