The original Blade Runner (1982) was critically blasted when it was first released but found a devoted following on home video. That following brought director Ridley Scott back to the film several times, first deleting the narration, snipping scenes, finally adding the famous unicorn scene which confirmed for many the Deckard (Harrison Ford) was indeed a replicant as they has suspected. The film is one of the greatest and most innovative science fiction films ever made, haunting in its final moments when a vicious replicant saves Deckard in the moments before he himself dies, victim of the lifespan failsafe.
With breathtaking Cinematography capturing a neon Los Angeles where it always seems to be raining, the look of the film was quite extraordinary. Scott’s direction of the film was fluid and patient, the performances, Ford and Hauer especially were superb, but the film was meditative, attention was required, it was not the action filled blockbuster most expected. It was like a dream unfolding, filled with unique images, a dystopian view of the future we had not seen before.
At its heart a mystery: how human is human?
And of course, is Deckard (Ford) the blade runner sent to kill a group of replicant; a replicant himself? Now twenty-five years later we believe the answer to that last question is yes, as Ridley Scoot has returned to the film many times to cut and reshape. He produced this sequel, and no doubt had a lot to offer Director Denis Villeneuve, an Oscar nominee last year for the masterful Arrival (2016).
This new Blade Runner 2049 is a massive epic, a huge film, and the masterpiece I believe everyone hoped for; it is a visually stunning work, filled with beautiful, haunting images, great performances and superb direction from Villeneuve. There has been some criticism about the length of the film, hovering close to three hours, but I was invested completely in the movie, all in.
Villeneuve has created a film for the ages. Cinematographer Roger Deakins has thirteen times been nominated for an Academy Award but not yet won. For his stunning work on this film, he should finally win. The images he and Villeneuve offer are the work of two geniuses of modern cinema, paying homage to the first film, and yet making this new one feel entirely original.[SPOILERS AHEAD]
Set in the year 2049, Ryan Gosling is well cast as a replicant sent by his superior to find out what a megalomaniac manufacturer of replicants is up too. Rumours abound of them being able to reproduce and it terrifies the police. Discovering a long covered secret, he searches for someone from the past for answers.
His search will bring him face to face with Deckard (Harrison Ford), living in seclusion far from the city. Can the two of them prevent the destruction of the human race, or is it too late? The film unfolds like a dream, hauntingly, with images pulled from the landscape of the minds of the gifted Villeneuve and Deakins, some of them breathtaking, so beautiful you might gasp out loud. It is the view of the future not out of the realm, but entirely possibly, which makes it all the more frightening. Real, authentic, we remember the portrayal of LA from the first film, and this feels like a natural progression.
Gosling is cold, remote and icily efficient in his work, moving forward with little emotion, no feeling. It is a really good performance from one of our greatest young actors, a role that challenges both he and the audience. Portraying this type of pent-up intensity is not easy, it taxes the actor, but Gosling permits us to feel his barely concealed fury.
Best of all is Harrison Ford as Deckard. He shows up late in the film giving the film an explosive energy and power that perfectly compliments the film. Unhappy, even appalled with how the world has permitted the replicants to become essential, he is ready to lash out. The actor could find himself back in the Oscar circle as a Supporting Actor nominee, so great to see Ford doing fine work.
Jared Leto seems to exist to be as strange as possible on screen and since winning that Oscar takes himself way too seriously. His work in Suicide Squad (2016) while strong, was also an obvious effort to one up Heath Ledger, good luck with that. Here he is very good as Niander Wallace, the obscenely wealthy, blind creator of a new series of replicants. Leto slips into the skull into of the character smoothly, effortlessly and shows us a mad man.
The visual effects are striking, the production designs remarkable, but it is the Cinematography and direction that give the film its beauty, its mystery. Is Villeneuve a genius? He might just be. He has given us two of the greatest science fiction films, after all.