‘Wisnae pish’ was the long and complex opinion eloquently put by my associate lifers (Fifers), who, coming out the cinema having sat for almost two hours without participating in any form of consumption, stood on the corner of the Odeon and the train station in Kingston on a cold night in January, pulled out a fag, sparked up, and said, ‘wisnae pish’, in view of having just watched Trainspotting 2.
Out of all the accolades Danny Boyle’s sequel to the iconic Trainspotting has received, Danny should hold this compliment in high regard. It comes from a born-and-bred great-grandson anon to a sibling who probably died at the battle of Dunblane, a great-great grandson anon to a sibling who probably died at the battle of Bannockburn and a great-great-great-grandson anon to a sibling who probably shared a fag and a can of Export with William Wallace himself.
If Danny Boyle knows anything about the Scot’s “unique” psyche, he’ll know that receiving a ‘wisnae pish’ after one of the brethren has watched T2 is a fine compliment to be lauded upon this testimony to the fair Scottish people. And, having watched the film, it’s clear Boyle does know quite a bit about the Scot’s psyche, handling the return of luminaries – Mark ‘Rent boy’ Renton, Simon ‘Sickboy’ Williamson, Francis ‘Franco’ Begbie and Daniel ‘Spud’ Murphy – with sincerity, candour and class.
This could have gone so wrong – us Scots having been sharpening our halbards and dirks for twenty years, hoping to perform our night of long knives on the sequel to Irvine Walsh’s famous meta-ography. But, alas, we are denied by a stellar story cleverly written by John Hodge that handles the sequel to Renton’s early life with the right balance of nostalgia and transformation.
Renton’s returned to Edinburgh after twenty years choosing life in Amsterdam. However, this choice has turned sour with his wife sick of him and him sick of the lowly rewards of some obscure accountancy course. So he returns to the land of his home and, naturally (Miss Moneypenny), into the scar riddled arms of his auld “pals”.
Having been so long since we saw the cheeky grin of “cheesy” Ewan McGregor, we should be reminded he left his pals in circumstances of quite some disrupt, having stolen their share of a 16000lb heroin deal made in the heady conglomerate of London.
On Renton’s return, Sickboy’s naturally (Miss Moneypenny) a little angry on seeing his finest thieving friend stood in the pub he’s inherited in the back arse of Leith. With Sickboy having performed the usual Scottish custom of welcoming old friends home by smashing a pool cue across Renton’s puss, the two embark on a venture to turn said shithole (Sickboy’s pub), into a massage parlour. Note: in Scottish, “massage parlour” disnae mean “massage parlour.”
Whilst this escapade is going on, on the other side of toon Francis Begbie has broken out of prison (naturally Miss Moneypenny) and is now taken up common Scottish cause; “tae kill the cunt who fucked me over!” The person in question, Mark ‘Rent boy’ Renton. It’s the obvious way to have taken the story; Begbie’s revenge. Cause if you ken Francis Begbie, you ken he’s no the type o’ guy to sit back and let the theft of four thousand pounds on his person pass by unpunished.
But T2 is about more than just settling old scores. It’s about commemorating the first Trainspotting, a film of groundbreaking proportions in relation to British and world cinema. As I sat watching T2, being subtly ushered towards those iconic moments of 1996 – returning to the hills Tommy took the boys in an ill-fated attempt to put them on the right track, Begbie throwing a pint glass over the balcony of a pub, Renton grinning at the windscreen of a car that almost ran him over – I wriggled in my “premium” paid-for seat, grinning in delight at old memories made to feel my own.
And that’s what it is with Trainspotting. The original engrossed us to the point that we look back on these memories as if they’re our own. And it’s what Trainspotting 2 does brilliantly, in respecting this and keeping us to the custom we so revel in while moving the story along with character development that feels real and sincere enough to make us sigh and say, “ay, look at ‘em noo.” It is a great skill to get these delicate nuances in the right balance without tarnishing something that we hold so dear to our hearts.
And so, in hindsight (something so embedded in Scottish history), it is a dangerous venture Danny Boyle, John Hodge and the rest of their cast of vagabonds undertook. But I’ll tell you what, they did aw’right.
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge (based on Trainspotting and Porno by Irvine Welsh)
Producer: Danny Boyle
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller
Run Time: 117 minutes
T2 Trainspotting is out in cinemas now.