| 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.
Villeneuve is a beast! He has created another immaculate film with a story that will render you speechless, characters that command your full attention, and filmmaking achievements that will go down in history. Much like the original, this film thematically explores topics of humanity and artificial intelligence relationship, social stratification, and postcolonialism. Villeneuve’s ambitious efforts not only continue the discourse started by Scott but elevates it. It challenges philosophical ideologies about the human soul and identity, all through an astoundingly strong visual language reinforcing the cyberpunk beauty that is already established.
For example, one of the many questions the film ultimately asks is if one’s self is found within a constructed consciousness or on the soul and body matter. These are deeply philosophical inquiries with no real answers that Blade Runner is now recognized for attempting to address. Unfortunately, to comply with the director’s request, there is not much else that can be shared without giving too much information away, but there is something special about a film that can match its insurmountable style with just as much substance.
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a film that to this day is visually incredible with cinematography that has stood the test of time and represents this futuristic world in the most beautiful way possible. Now you bring in one of the greatest cinematographers to ever exist in Roger Deakins and what he achieves here is undeniably stunning and easily some of his best work. The way this world is represented through darkness and colour creates an atmosphere and a feel for this world that is familiar yet foreign, and futuristic yet very lived in. Every shot had me in awe of everything I was seeing, every cityscape and every baron wasteland no matter how busy or empty had a story to tell and I was drawn in to this world like no other. Even the 3D aspect was perfectly captured and this comes from someone who hates the technology.
As phenomenal as the art direction is, 2049 is nothing without the driving force that is Ryan Gosling. His performance parallels that of 1982’s Harrison Ford. By making K an outcast of society, Villeneuve lets Gosling enrich the character’s alienation with subtle interactions and mannerisms, only caught by attentive eyes. Ana de Armas co-stars as Joi, as she does an amazing job of portraying the supportive, chameleon-like qualities of her character. Harrison Ford returns as Deckard and you must know that I rarely get emotional during movies, but Ford’s performance in 2049 just made my mouth drop and water my eyes. This is the first in a very long time that Ford gives a full 100% to his performance. Robin Wright and Jared Leto both meet their high demands. Sylvia Hoeks is particularly riveting as the simple yet unstoppable villainess with no moral code.
When I learned that composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (someone who has collaborated multiple times with Villeneuve and did most of the scores for his movies) got fired I was surprised; Jóhannsson has always delivered great work, but according to Villeneuve, his score ”wasn’t the right one” for this movie for it didn’t ”resemble Vangelis soundtrack for Blade Runner” quite enough. So he got replaced by probably the best man in the business nowadays; Hans Zimmer and his new collaborator Benjamin Wallfisch (composter of IT). And as we are used to with the German composer, this was once again sublime and a great homage to the original. The 2049 score can be compared to his Dunkirk score, in a way that it unsettles us from the first chord and just as the Second World War movie, it keeps us on the edges of ours seats, especially during the last hour.
For all its thematic and pictorial feast, the film moves at a slow pace that some might find distractingly irritating. It is a valid criticism to say that 2049 drags on during certain scenes; however, the film is dictated by its own rules. What feels like a calculated improvisation keeps the editing going, lingering shots for more seconds, sometimes minutes, than they should. It takes a note from the original Blade Runner, in which the key to world-building scenes was to let the viewer settle in the atmospheric mood by letting mundane procedures occur with no real intention. This allows the film to take its time advancing the main narrative while pushing audiences to truly experience the cathartic pictures they are being exposed to. After all, one must accept these ideas as an active viewer and listener in an otherwise meaningless endeavor to push the influential envelope of the original and acutely extend the discussion. Villeneuve promotes a smart, reciprocating sensibility for interpretive theorization and nostalgic collective.
Blade Runner 2049 is a lot of things: extraordinary to look at, impeccably acted, defined by the kind of strange, low hum of tension Villeneuve has spent the last decade or so mastering. But what makes it special is something else entirely. Blade Runner 2049 is the masterpiece so many hoped it would be because, above everything else, it is unafraid to stake everything on sentiment. Even judged on the merit of its heart alone, it is the very best film of 2017 so far. What 2049 has going for it most, though, much the same as the original for me (perhaps even more so), is how rewatchable it will prove to be. Instantly, I wanted to see it again. After nearly three hours, my first impulse was to go through it all again, and I wouldn’t have been bored for a second. But beware of certain reviews out there, because what I hate the most is critics who say “not quite a classic”. As fellow reviewer Chris Stuckmann perfectly stated on Twitter last night;
“Classics reveal themselves with age, not instantly.”
‘Blade Runner 2049’ gets a 9.7/10
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
Follow me on Twitter for more random movie, comics & sports stuff here.
You can also follow my Letterboxd account to see my movie activity here.