Movie Review | Blade Runner 2049
Movie Summary: A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years. (IMDb)
If there was ever a film that didn’t need a sequel, it was Blade Runner. Not just because of the seemingly-endless number of different edits the film received, but because it was a complete story in its own right – despite leaving some important questions unanswered.
The fact that it now has not just a good sequel, but an absolute masterclass in science-fiction film-making and one of the best films of 2017 is a modern-day Hollywood movie miracle. This is genuinely top-tier stuff from beginning to end.
To begin with the obvious: this movie looks absolutely stunning from first to last. Whether replicating looks from the original or forging its own distinct identity, Blade Runner 2049 never looks anything short of gorgeous. It’s highly likely that this film was prove to be as aesthetically-defining for science-fiction films as the first film was.
Every set and every location not only looks beautiful, everything fits together despite the variety of locations from the warm yellows and oranges of the ruins of Las Vegas, to the darker browns of Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace, and the bright neon lights carrying over from Blade Runner.
Then there’s the excellent editing, forgoing the modern style of quick cutting to give every shot a chance to shine and show off what’s on display to the audience. The people who made this film know how good it looks and show off the world they have created every chance they get.
The music and sound design is also great, even with the score echoing but never quite matching the original. What’s there definitely works well, but what Vangelis did with the original film was a one-off that was a product of its time and modern film scores just can’t reproduce.
Speaking of reproduction, that very concept is what drives the story as Ryan Gosling’s K discovers the remains of a Replicant that apparently died during childbirth. This sparks a race against time to find where this miracle child is – Joshi wanting it dead to keep the line between humans and Replicants distinct; Wallace wanting it so he can dissect it and uncover how Tyrell was able to create synthetic life-forms capable of reproduction – something he has been unable to achieve himself.
There are twists and turns throughout the story and any discussion of them would be major spoilers, so it’s best just to say that K and the audience are left to slowly piece things together. There are multiple points where the film looks like it’s heading in one direction before another tiny piece of information is uncovered that re-contextualises everything that has come before.
Blade Runner 2049 is a long film as a result (2 hours, 43 minutes to be precise), but it needs to be to cover everything it needs to in order to position everyone where they need to be. There are story points and concepts that are introduced and left hanging in the same scene; to modern audiences used to having all story beats explained to them, it may frustrate.
But this just matches the original that does the exact same thing – if an idea or concept isn’t central to the story the film is telling, the film just lets it go once it has served its purpose and simply keeps on moving. This film has a lot of meat on its bones and will be dissected for years to come.
Last, but certainly not least are the performances, which are uniformly excellent. It’s a little hard to discuss them properly without spoiling plot points, but there isn’t a single actor not operating at the top of their game – as the perfect example, this is Harrison Ford’s best performance in years by such a large distance it’s almost laughable.
Ryan Gosling continues to be a reliably brilliant presence, Jared Leto is perfect as a corporate leader with delusions of Godhood – as is Sylvia Hoeks as his Replicant assistant/enforcer, Luv. Ana de Armas is also fantastic as Joi, whose digital AI character and story could have carried its own film.
That last line is part of the reason why Blade Runner 2049 is so, so good. There are so many ideas in this film that could easily be main stories in their own right and are only subplots here. You could watch this film several times and still not take in every concept contained within, never mind the multiple perfectly valid interpretations some of them may have. A must-see for the future of sci-fi.
Why a 10/10? Not wanting to repeat myself from above, but the original Blade Runner - in its Final Cut form - is undoubtedly one of the most influential science-fiction movies ever created. My best hope for Blade Runner 2049 was that it would at least come close to matching how much I love the original. Instead, it surpassed it.
This 'unnecessary' sequel had a leg-up in the design work thanks to still astonishing-looking first film, but manages to forge its own unique identity, both narratively and visually, to stand as a masterpiece of sci-fi in its own right and serve as yet another stunning entry in the career of director Denis Villeneuve. It's one of my favourite films of the year and, in my humble opinion, one of the best science-fiction movies ever created.