LACE REVIEWS: Blade Runner 2049
What makes a perfect sequel? Is it the returning cast and characters? Nostalgia? References to the past? A set up for more sequels?
A true sequel is able to stand firmly on its own as a strong, well-made film. We have seen many of these in the past, from The Godfather Part II (1974) to Empire Strikes Back (1980)… and now… Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the events of Blade Runner (1982) in a cyberpunk-dystopian California, where a new breed of replicants, human-like cyborgs, are utilized as slave labor. Replicants have been reintroduced recently, having been previously banned as a result of several armed uprisings. The newest models of replicants, designed by the ominous Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), are manufactured purely to obey.
Detective K (Ryan Gosling), is one of these replicants, working under LAPD Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) as a blade runner, a special police unit devoted to finding and “retiring” rogue replicants. The film follows K as a new investigation leads down a dark path, eventually leading him to former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
First and most importantly, we must talk about the two stars of the film: the director and the cinematographer. All doubts aside, French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve was the perfect choice for director. As a lifelong fan of the original film with a deep respect towards they world it portrayed, and backed by a stunning filmography, including "Sicario" (2015), and the Oscar-winning "Arrival" (2016), Villeneuve’s mastery of the craft shows. Villeneuve proves yet again that he is one of if not the best filmmaker of the 21st century, cementing his status as a new auteur.
And then there is the cinematographer. Boasting a career with 13 Oscar nominations, English cinematographer, Roger Deakins, returns once again as the master he truly is. Very rarely is every single shot of a film so breathtaking, so thought out and planned. Deakins’ style adds a seemingly impossible sense of reality to the dirty yet futuristic void of neo-Los Angeles that could not be done had anyone else been behind the camera. If the golden statue doesn’t go to Deakins, then consider the Oscars obsolete.
Now onto the performances. Ryan Gosling portrays an at times timid and unresponsive, yet curious being who ails to discover more. In her breakthrough role, Cuban actress Ana de Armas adds a naïve, joyful performance as K’s holographic maid/lover Joi. Jared Leto and Robin Wright deliver sound, impressive performances despite a comparative lack of screen time.
The two standouts amongst the cast are Harrison Ford and Sylvia Hoeks. Ford returns as an aged, isolated Rick Deckard. This is arguable Ford’s finest performance in years, if not his entire career. Shock, depression and loneliness seeps through his old eyes and voice in a calm fashion. Ford brilliantly portrays a traumatized man who barely has anything to live for. Sylvia Hoeks plays Luv, a cold, obedient replicant who serves as Niander Wallace’s enforcer. Hoeks, another relative newcomer, displays a bipolar inner conflict between obedience and freedom, and shines in her American debut.
Set in multiple locations, aided greatly by the cinematography, the set design and CGI are stunning. Props and hand-made sets aren’t avoided either. Audiences do not feel as if they are in a theater, but are in the streets of cyber Los Angeles. The sound of both the city and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Ben Wallifisch alike succeeds in transporting moviegoers through the mega-city in grand fashion.
Blade Runner 2049, like its predecessor, doesn’t shy away from sensitive philosophical messages either. An arthouse film disguised as a science fiction blockbuster, the film challenges us with ideas of identity, morality, and what it truly means to be human, born or built.
A slight negative that may not affect all audience members is the film’s runtime. Boasting a magnificent 2 hours and 40 seconds, Blade Runner 2049 requires some patience, but for those who can withstand long periods without periodic bathroom breaks, then this is the perfect movie.
Find your local theater, look up the closest showing, and go. Despite an intimidating runtime, Blade Runner 2049 is in every respect a perfect sequel. Like the original Blade Runner, people will be talking about this film for decades to come. Boasting a powerful cast, exquisite direction, and masterful cinematography, this neo-noir sci-fi masterpiece cannot be missed.