Danny Boyle continues to amaze. His direction of the sequel to his thrilling original is confident and at times masterful.
Dabbling with sequels is a dodgy business. The gold standard remains Godfather Part II, and most other attempts fall woefully short.
T2 does not fall into that nebulous category. It brings back the core quartet of the original and explores their fate two decades later.
The viewer is constantly amused and often awed at subtle production techniques that propel the storyline, adding color and flavor in clever fashion. Before the title card appears, many minutes into the film, subtitles float in the background, alerting the viewer that thick Scottish accents will be on offer. Much later the film pays brief homage to The Thin Man, with jagged camera angles capturing the empty and starkly lit streets of Edinburgh. Instead of two erstwhile friends chasing each other in Vienna, it is two angry Scots.
The film turns on the fate of the loot purloined in the original film, with friends distrusting each other. That Maguffin loot has been used often, from before The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and beyond.
Fortunately, the actors playing the core quartet remain versatile. The fill out their characters believably. Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle reprise their roles of Renton, Spud, Simon and Begbie. Carlyle has filled out, no longer the rail thin psycho, he is the comparatively portly jailbird longing for revenge. He cleverly escapes and soon the swirling paths of the four converge. Ladies, rest assured: McGregor maintains his nearly intact streak of exposing his buttocks.
The filmmakers undoubtedly spent time debating how much of the original to include in the sequel, and it was time well spent. They struck the right balance of dipping into the original to amplify important components of the sequel.
A key newcomer to the quartet is Veronika, played admirably by Anjela Nedyalkova. She interacts with three of the four men in crucial ways. Look for Kelly McDonald as the one character who moved quickly out of the squalor of her original role.
The film is based on the books Porno and Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
Several moments of high suspense are counterbalanced with cunning humor. As in the original, music plays an important role. Visual references to trains abound, and glorious vistas of Edinburgh are juxtaposed with areas that gentrification left behind.
Lovers of the original will not be disappointed with the sequel. Given the rollicking and delightful experience of seeing the original for the first time, it is indeed unlikely the experience could be topped in a sequel. That T2 comes close many times is commendable.