Review: Blade Runner 2049


35 years after the original film was released, Blade Runner finally gets a sequel. But is it warranted?

It’s such a wonderful feeling when you leave a theater after seeing a movie and think to yourself, “That was a truly awe-inspiring moviegoing experience.” That phrase and the work of director Denis Villeneuve will likely find themselves crossing paths more often than not if Villeneuve continues to deliver on all cylinders like he has been in recent years. And continue to deliver he does, as Blade Runner 2049 is his best work to date and a true cinematic masterpiece.

It’s been 35 years since the original Blade Runner hit theaters in 1982, and while a sequel was never really required to the somewhat open-ended film, 2049 is a more than welcome one. In a time where studios seem hell-bent on creating their own Marvel-esque cinematic universes right out of the gate, no matter what sacrifices to story have to be made, it’s nice to see a sequel made decades later that simply wants to tell the best possible story it can, while doing justice to all characters involved.

It’s very evident that nobody involved in this filmmaking process is worrying about whether or not there will be a Blade Runner 2059 or 3049, or a Replicant spin-off, or a prequel about blah, blah, blah. No, the focus is purely on telling the story they wanted to tell here, and doing so in the most astonishing way they possibly could.

I’ll touch on the story without any spoilers, so it will be rather brief. The story focuses on K (Ryan Gosling), a new generation of Replicant created by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who took over and improved where Tyrell Corporation failed. This new generation of Replicant obey better than any previous model, and continue to be used for off-world slavery to make other worlds habitable for humans.

K, however, is a Blade Runner, and his job is to track down the remaining late production models created by Tyrell. These models had false memories implanted in them so they’d feel more human, and also had no failsafe expiry date. While out on a routine ‘retirement’ mission, K discovers something that could change everything, and it’s up to him to discover the truth, no matter where it may lead.

Screenwriter Hampton Fancher (who wrote the script for the original Blade Runner) and co-writer Michael Green have woven a wonderfully engrossing, emotionally engaging sci-fi mystery that doesn’t shy away from taking the time it needs to properly tell its tale. With a runtime that’s just under three hours, Blade Runner 2049 is probably not the best film to biggie size your drink for, as there isn’t a wasted scene or moment to be found from start to finish.

The original Blade Runner wasn’t afraid to take its time and let the scenery speak for itself quite often, and the sequel is no different. While the story itself is highly captivating, the visuals are absolutely breathtaking thanks to both Villeneuve’s visual prowess and iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins masterful eye.

Yes, Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of the best looking films to come along in, well, decades. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and words really can’t do it justice, so I highly recommend that you see it on the big screen (preferably IMAX, if possible) while you can, as it’s one of those experiences that has to be had firsthand to truly understand what I mean when I say that the vast world created and put on the screen is so easy to just get lost in through pure admiration for the astounding beauty – found even in the darker, more melancholic moments – that envelops it.

When awards season comes around, I fully expect Blade Runner 2049 to make its presence felt. And while it’s impossible to predict if Villeneuve will get the win (he should, at the very least, have a nomination locked down), or if the film itself will get a Best Picture nomination (it should), one thing is certain: Roger Deakins should finally win the Oscar for Best Cinematography.

Deakins has done brilliant work for decades, and yet he’s always come up short when it comes to that golden statue. And while many would argue that it’s really not that important, it’s still something that he’s deserved many times before, and definitely does so again this year for his work here, regardless of how many films are still to come before year’s end.

The score is also absolutely breathtaking as well, featuring the works of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. It’s unique in its own way, while also bridging quite naturally from the score of the original film that help keep the two intertwined even with decades of time between them.

Taking over a lead role of a Harrison Ford classic is no small task, but Gosling makes it look easy here. He carries the film firmly on his shoulders, which is made a lot easier thanks to the superb supporting cast that’s been placed around him. Again, I may be going somewhat crazy here, and it’s possible the lighter than expected box-office may affect decisions come next year; however, Gosling being up for Best Actor once again wouldn’t shock me one bit. I’d actually love it.

On the supporting front, Ford continues to do what he does best, just owning the screen any time he’s around. He has solid chemistry with Gosling as well, which definitely helps. Robin Wright also does great work here as K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi – and officer who won’t think twice about making the tough call to help keep order in the world she helps protect. And Leto also is in top form here as the Replicant creator and overlord of sorts.

Two standout performances on the supporting front come from Ana de Armas, who plays K’s virtual wife Joi, and Sylvia Hoeks, who plays Leto’s right hand Replicant, Luv. Armas delivers an emotionally charged performance as Joi, a virtual woman designed to say exactly what it is you want to hear. Armas is so good, that you often wonder if Joi is saying what K wants to hear, or if it’s possible that she may actually have some sort of artificial intelligence that cause her to actually mean what she says. And Hoeks work as Luv is pure badassery, as she’s tasked with playing the more physically active antagonist of sorts in the film.

Blade Runner 2049 is something special, and it’s that rare sequel that outdoes its predecessor on all fronts. This sci-fi neo-noir is flawlessly crafted, and even at just under three hours in length, it’s somehow perfectly paced, with no wasted moments to be found. Villeneuve has done it once more, proving yet again that he’s one of the top filmmakers in the business today. While the film will no doubt hold up incredibly well on the small screen when it’s eventually released, do yourself a favour and see one of the best picture’s of the year where it was meant to be seen before it’s too late.

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Notable Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto.

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