Blade Runner 2049
I have honestly been semi-dreading this film ever since its announcement. I am a big fan of what Ridley Scott did with the 1982 film, especially the Final Cut that was released a decade ago. Last year I even got the chance to see the Final Cut on the big screen, renewing my love for the original film. Although after hearing about who was working on the project – from Ridley Scott to director Denis Villeneuve (of Sicario and Arrival), to Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford – I was feeling a bit more comfortable. The studio, filmmakers, nor myself really want to divulge any information about the plot. This is something we don’t see too often, and I greatly appreciate going into a film without really any knowledge of what I am about to see. 2049 feels like what director Villeneuve has been working up to throughout his career. It takes the mystery aspects from Prisoners, the tense set pieces from Sicario, and the sci-fi ideals from Arrival. This may be his masterpiece.
From the opening scene, I was glued to this film. The music, beautiful cinematography, characters, detective elements, and flawless visual effects – it was all completely mesmerizing. 2049 took everything I loved about the original, expanded upon it, then took it to the next level. The images here are just as iconic, but even more beautiful. Cinematography Roger Deakins, nominated for 13 Oscars and never won, has truly outdone himself here. If the story doesn’t grab your attention, you could happily sit in the theater and the images on the screen will entertain you. This is the best digital photography has ever been. Subsequently, Hans Zimmer’s score is incredible, equally paying homage to the original while also making it his own. He’s having quite the year after scoring both Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049. This is a soundtrack I will be listening to for a long time.
As for the cast, Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford are uniformly great here. Ford turns in a very lived-in performance, giving us a greater range of emotion than we have seen from him in quite a long time. Jared Leto is great here for his two scenes, but his right-hand-woman, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), is a much more prominent and interesting character. She is the film’s Roy Batty in relation to the original, and she is a terrific talent. Robin Wright, playing Gosling’s boss, also gives a very tough and earnest performance. She’s always great, able to give another layer to what could have been a fairly one-note character. However, I do feel that Ana de Armas as Joi is the real scene-stealer of the film. This is the first time I’ve seen the actress in and she is a true revelation in what is arguably the most difficult role. Her chemistry with Gosling’s Officer K is fantastic, with Joi and K being the heart and soul of the film, respectfully. I also want to mention Dave Bautista because while he is only in one scene, he is very memorable. For a wrestler-turned-actor, he’s a surprising talent and I hope to see him do more dramatic work in the future.
Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is the exact film I hoped it could be. It surpasses the original for me, because I found the story more fulfilling on an emotional level. Where Blade Runner posits questions about what it is to be human, 2049 tackles them head on in a more satisfying fashion. Much like Mad Max: Fury Road, the world-building aspect of this film is fascinating. And like Fury Road, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t sit down and explain everything about the world to you, but instead lets you live in it. Villeneuve does what great directors do and shows instead of tells.
This is one I have thought about long after the credits rolled, so much so that I returned to the theater 24 hours later to experience it again. It may be one of my all-time favorites as it just struck the right chords with me. It’s hard sci-fi meets detective story, which is right up my alley. I’m not going to lie, these movies aren’t for everyone. 2049 is a deliberately paced three hours (although Villeneuve and co. earn every minute of it) and I will say right now there is little-to-no action sequences. If you are in the mood to sit in a theater and live in a different world for three hours and watch a detective uncover a spider’s web of a mystery, then you might enjoy it. I spent six hours with this movie in a single weekend. For me, this is filmmaking at its finest and I hope it receives the love it deserves come awards season.
Rating: R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language
Runtime: 2 hours, 43 minutes