Kelly MacDonald makes a welcome, although all-too-brief appearance as Diane, now a lawyer whom Renton consults when Simon’s blackmail schemes get him arrested. When she first appeared, the audience cheered MacDonald as if she were the movie’s equivalent of Carrie Fisher returning as Princess Leia. Unfortunately, the movie has no idea what to do with Diane-- she’s escaped the drudgery of working-class Edinburgh only to function chiefly as a measuring stick for Renton’s self-ascribed failure of purpose.
“You’re a tourist in your own youth,” snarls Simon to Renton midway through the movie, and it’s the sort of self-reflective joke that the movie traffics in to near profound effect. Renton comes back home facing a newly minted sense of mortality and a need to come to some kind of terms not only with his own actions and how they’ve affected his friends, but also with his own sense of torpor, of being saddled by the implications of a rosy diagnosis of health and 30 more years of life coming just at the point when he’s become reacquainted with the desperate aimlessness which has always clung to the edges of his life. Yet the key to T2’s effectiveness is how deeply it understands that Renton’s desperation to reconnect with and reassess his past is shared by its audience. A sequel by definition, promises more of the same, and Boyle’s impish sense of play, refined here into a style far more sophisticated than the one he was honing in 1997, imparts that necessary sense of familiarity.
But T2 becomes its own animal, imbued with the strange, inharmonious mingling of exuberance and melancholy which can only be transmitted through age and experience, by a consideration of the fear of what might happen when another sort of needle drops, into the grooves of the old vinyl Iggy Pop album still sitting in Renton’s bedroom after all these years. It’s a fear acknowledged by the movie’s exhilarating, and horrifying, final shot, which carries chilling echoes from the first film, and it’s one that is ultimately honored by the movie’s commitment to Renton and company as fleshed-out individuals, not simply as snarling attitudes and generational signposts. At the end of T2’s nearly two-hour run, there’s no simple reassurance when the final train pulls out of the station right on time. Those 30 years still lie in wait.