During this time of reboots and sequels, it’s always a dicey proposition to offer a follow up to a film that doesn’t necessarily merit a sequel. Such is the case with Trainspotting, the surreal, iconic, chaotic and memorable feature from Danny Boyle. Trainspotting is hailed by many critics and fans, and it launched the careers of Boyle, Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary), Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) and Kelly MacDonald (Brave, No Country For Old Men). Initially, I wasn’t sure about this, but bringing back the original cast (and also with Boyle and original screenwriter John Hodge on board) meant that this could potentially be another successful outing.

I decided to revisit the original in anticipation of T2 Trainspotting (yeah, it’s a both joke and nod to Terminator 2: Judgment Day), and I forgot Boyle and Hodge left the door open for a sequel. Mark Renton (McGregor), looking to leave his drug-fueled life behind, left his friends high and dry by absconding with £16,000 they all earned by selling heroin. Some 20 years later Mark, who's been living in Amsterdam, returns to Scotland, drug free and looking to make amends with his old mates. Getting up speed, let's go down the list - Simon’s (Miller) upgraded from heroin to cocaine and earns a living as a bar owner and blackmailer with his partner, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova); Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still on heroin but is writing a memoir of his experiences from the original Trainspotting. Meanwhile, Begbie (Carlyle) is still upset with Mark for taking the money, and he swears revenge on the remorseful man, all while escaping from jail after having been denied parole. There are plenty of story arcs going on which I won’t go into detail here, but ultimately T2 is about regrets, making amends and contemplating what could’ve been.

Those themes are the focus of this follow-up, and Boyle has had 20 years to become a fantastic storyteller. Whereas Trainspotting is full of iconic scenes and revels in them, T2 is Boyle’s attempt to further develop Mark, Simon, Spud and Begbie while giving their characters some closure. Mark, obviously, is looking to make things right; Simon wants to get on the right path; Spud needs to control his drug addiction; and Begbie needs to be a positive role model to his teenage son. T2 does a better job of showing the viewers the negative consequences of drug abuse (Trainspotting was accused of glorifying it), but more so Boyle wants to show us what can potentially happen when you make bad choices. The crew has certainly made their fair share, and throughout Boyle allows audiences to contemplate their own failed decisions.

What is also evident in T2 are the callbacks. Boyle and Hodge make deft work of repurposing images and scenes from the original, but they do so without smothering audiences with it. It’ll help, though, to watch the first feature before visiting Boyle’s latest. Doing so will allow the callbacks to come off more emotional and resonant, although the strong performances of the main cast do well enough to facilitate plenty of feels.

In all, T2 is the sequel I never expected or wanted, yet I am pleased to have. It’s surprising to see a follow-up with improvements in story, emotion and closure, and it is the best representation I’ve seen of forever friends. Boyle tells the audience, with childhood footage of Mark, Simon and Spud during the opening credits, he intends to go that route. I still spend time with friends whom I’ve known since I was six, and when you’ve known people for that long inevitably you’re going to say and do things to them you’ll often regret. Boyle capitalizes on that and, from a storytelling perspective, makes T2 better than the original. Mark, Simon and Spud have hurt each other time and again, but their friendship will allow them to overcome this huge rift between them.

So in true Mark Renton fashion, “Choose life.” In this case, choose T2 Trainspotting. It’s an excellent sequel that answers questions brought about 21 years ago, and it should fill the need for fans to see these characters get into trouble again so they can finally grow up, just like an adult should.

4 stars out of 5

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