In 1982 director Ridley Scott toyed with what it means to be alive in his sci-film “Blade Runner.” The neo-noir followed officer Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, as he hunted down bioengineered replicants, incredibly human-like androids who developed consciousness, and “retired” them.
The film, which only garnered a modest box office revenue and a mixed reception from critics, went on to become one of the most iconic movies of all time. And it continues to influence pop culture to this day. Of course, following up one of the most celebrated films of all times, more than three decades later, seems like an impossible task. There’s no way it could ever work. Right?
“Blade Runner 2049,” this time directed by Denis Villeneuve, takes place 30 years after the events of the first film in, you guessed it, the year 2049. For the sake of letting readers go into this film completely fresh, let’s keep the plot as vague as possible as the entire premise of the film could be considered a spoiler.
The film follows LAPD officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, as he’s assigned to a case, one that will lead him to the reclusive Deckard, revisited by Ford, who hasn’t been seen in years.
Of course there’s way more to the plot, but that’s all you’ll be getting out of this review.
But let’s get to the point, is the movie good? Well no, it’s not. It’s fantastic.
Fans of the original will be overjoyed at where this new installment heads. It takes the themes and the world of the original film and expands on them, making them feel fresh and highly relevant to today’s climate. The questions “2049” raises about humanity are provocative and will stay with you long after the credits roll.
However, despite being a sequel you don’t need to see the first movie in order to enjoy this one. While occupying the same world and using some of the same characters, this is a standalone story with a beginning and an ending. It doesn’t try to restart the franchise or set up countless sequels. “Blade Runner 2049” is its own film. Which is refreshing in a world filled with remakes, reboots and cinematic universes.
Ford’s return leads to one incredible performance. This isn’t the Deckard, fans are accustomed to. This one is weathered and harden by the events that have transpired between films, and Ford sells this tiredness with looks alone. His presence commands power.
Thankfully newcomer Gosling is no slouch either. He gives an understated performance, playing K with a quiet intensity that only grows more ferocious as he stumbles down the rabbit hole. When he is on screen with Ford, the scenes they share are electric.
The real star of the film however is Villeneuve whose direction is stunning. Presenting moviegoers with a future that’s as beautiful as it is horrifying. Bright and neon-colored yet cold and isolated.
But, this isn’t a case of all style and no substance, every frame serves a purpose, either building the world or giving the audience insight into what a character is feeling. It’s a slow methodical style of filmmaking that’s rare to find in a movie of this scope.
Now this is the part of the review which usually list some of the movie’s flaws. Maybe a complaint about the film’s runtime—a brisk two hours and 43 minutes—or perhaps the lack of concrete answers to the film’s many questions. But neither of these are issues. There’s a sense of respect that the film irradiates to the audience. It understands that moviegoers are capable of watching a film that takes its time with its characters and story without spoon feeding the audience the answers.
“Blade Runner 2049” is an extraordinary accomplishment in filmmaking. It not only honors the legacy left by its predecessor but in many respects surpasses it. In fact why are you still reading this? Go see it for yourself.