Title: Blade Runner 2049
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Release Format: Theatrical
If you’re reading this review to decide whether or not to go see Blade Runner 2049, read no further. The answer is yes. It’s an instant classic deftly handled by an amazing director and a near perfect cast. The visuals, the pacing, the writing, the twists, and turns are all fantastic. Go. Now. Nothing else currently in theaters even approaches this film.
Denis Villeneuve, the brilliant director of recent hits Arrival and Sicario, managed to not only create something that feels like it fits in the world of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner but also pan out and zoom in on that world. We are shown a Los Angeles 30 years after the events of the first film, where Earth’s ecology has collapsed and a replicant uprising in 2022 has caused a worldwide blackout, erasing databanks and clearing out the registry of replicants living amongst humans. Obedient Nexus 9 Replicants now roam the Earth and the remaining Nexus 8S models are being hunted by Blade Runners, agents trained to locate, identify and “retire” rogue replicants.
Unlike the first installment, where the audience was never quite sure if replicant-hunting Decker (Harrison Ford) was himself a replicant, Blade Runner 2049 introduces us to K who is undoubtedly synthetic. Within the first few scenes, he exhibits strength and dexterity well beyond the limits of humanity. He is also played by Ryan Gosling, who rarely expresses any emotion other than self-satisfied disinterest in his acting, making him a perfect robot man.
Like Decker, K is a Blade Runner for the LAPD complete with flying car, blaster, and cool coat. Unlike Decker, K does not need to perform the iconic voight-kampff test to determine whether or not his targets are human or synthetic. After the events of the first movie, all new replicants have a serial number stamped on the bottom of their right eyes. This gives Blade Runner 2049 a different angle for it’s underlying noir-style investigation. K isn’t trying to find replicants, it’s generally understood who is and isn’t a replicant right away.
In this new setting, the not-so-subtle political context of the replicant vs. human conflict is brought into sharp contrast. K’s handler at the LAPD, played by a very grouchy Robin Wright, treats him like a slave. Replicants are second-class citizens that humans spit at and call “skinjobs” in passing. They have no rights, apparently make next to no wages, and live in awful conditions. Even with that inequality, humans abuse them and treat them like enemies. It maintains the tone of Philip K. Dick’s source material so well, asking if replicants deserve a chance to be real and not be forced into the slavery they were designed for.
One of the most remarkable things about how Blade Runner 2049 reveals the future is what isn’t expressly spelled out. We see enormous holograms, weapon systems, and commercial devices all seen being used nonchalantly, never named or explained or really given much of a focus. Every juicy detail of the world must be gleaned through context if anything. One of the lead characters, Joi, a holographic companion played by Ana de Armas, is both shown as a dynamic and incredibly intuitive being with real intelligence and as a sexy mass-produced virtual assistant. You don’t really know just how alive she is, only how alive K thinks she is. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition against the replicants’ own questionable senses of whether or not they’re “real” in the ways that matter.
With the film’s 163 min runtime, Villeneuve takes his sweet time letting scenes breathe. Nothing feels rushed, but nothing feels like it takes too long. There are a lot of moments where K gets out of his car and just looks around. The pacing is fantastic, especially for the noir genre. The questions raised by K’s investigation really make you think, and the movie gives you a lot of time to do just that.
While I’m trying to avoid spoilers, the big Decker reveal has been given away by every poster and trailer, so I don’t feel too bad discussing the fact that Harrison Ford is back to reprise his role of the Blade Runner protagonist from the first film. When we last saw him, he was leaving Los Angeles with the prototype advanced Tyrell corp replicant, Rachel. Ford plays the grouchy old man role perfectly, and his portrayal of an older and 30 years removed from society Decker feels a lot like his portrayal of Han Solo in Force Awakens. He nails the action sequences and steals every scene he’s in.
Verdict: Blade Runner 2049 is a masterpiece. The stunning visuals, philosophical questions, and fantastic acting all mesh to make an instant sci-fi classic on par with Ridley Scott’s original. You will find yourself asking questions till the very end, all the while being entertained by exciting action sequences and fascinating looks into an alternate dystopian future.
- Captivating Sci-Fi Visuals
- Brilliant Cast
- Fantastic Writing
- Great Pacing, Even for Such a Long Film
- Jared Leto
- 2:43 Runtime (Hit the Bathroom Before It Starts)