Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana De Armas, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoek
How do you talk about movie like Blade Runner 2049, a film that exists in the shadow of a classic?
Rave critical reviews and modest box office returns aside for a film of its ambition and grandeur, aside- Blade Runner 2049 is a great film that sets its own slow-burning pace. Whether it is cerebral or extremely pretentious can be entirely up to you.
Blade Runner 2049 is set 29 years after the original film (when Harrison Ford was in his prime), in which the world of the BR universe has changed greatly, but still very much the cold and bleak urban jungle which influenced the cyberpunk genre irrevocably, with works such as Ghost In The Shell, Cyberpunk 2020 among others.
Replicants have now been integrated into society, though they still suffer from discrimination by humanity at large, as a result of past history and conflict. KD-6 (Ryan Gosling) is a replicant who works for the LAPD’s Blade Runner division, tracking down those like himself and forcibly retiring them. A chance discovery on a routine case unlocks something buried deep in his memories, sending him on a personal mission to get to the bottom of it, and deep into a revelation that could possibly shatter the fragile co-existence between humans and replicants.
Regardless of whatever you might think of the film’s somewhat compact plot in which not really all that much goes on- but its presentation (both visually and aurally) alone is worth the cinema ticket- every scene and shot is painstakingly composed down to the tiniest edge, using lots of dark lighting and chiaroscuro, and in some instances flashes of extreme brightness. The music, by Hans Zimmer, spiritually harks back to that of Vangelis’ work in the original. The 180 minute runtime may be an issue to some viewers though, as is the pace. Gosling and De Armas provide their strongest performances, especially in scenes where both are present. Gosling’s portrayal of KD-6 humanizes 'him'- we get a sense of him as an individual who experiences the lonelness and alienation of his world.
Blade Runner’s presentation of the future is always what makes it stand out from other works of science fiction- this is a city that feels lived in and yet at the same is dreadful to live in- and one that looks like it could be plausible in real life. The product placement that appears in every major film is made seamlessly part of the scenery, presented in all its neon glory in contrast to the grimy surroundings- and tiny details in worldbuilding, delivered in both picture and syllables is what sets it apart from tons of other universes. And as an echo to the first film, a scene in which KD-6 enjoys some rice in a poorly lit eatery (for those who’ve never seen Blade Runner- it’s the scene in which Harrison Ford’s character goes and eats some ramen).
Blade Runner 2049 is a great film, if however not as ahead of its time and ground-breaking as it is the predecessor. You may want to watch the original film first in order to better fully understand the second though.