Blade Runner 2049

Published on October 10th, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Harrison Ford, and Jared Leto

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Rating: ★★★★★

Epic, wondrous, breathtaking. No one who watches Denis Villeneuve’s incredible new film Blade Runner 2049, the most remarkable science fiction sequel since James Cameron sent Sigourney Weaver back into the fray in Aliens, will be able to avoid superlatives. Aside from its nearly 3 hour running time, little sets it apart from Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic. Set 30 years after the first, the world is still cursed with torrential downpours and still apocalyptic and menacing yet it seems even more romantic. This story, chiefly about false memories and a missing child, is birthed from the shattering revelation that a replicant and a human have procreated, successfully. Such is the hierarchical state of this dystopia, the discovery sends shockwaves through the dimly lit mazes of the city’s towering structures. 2049 comes with all the visual and narrative trappings of a noir mystery but Villeneuve keeps pushing the walls up and out. You get a bruised and bloodied hero, a lethal femme fatale, and a heart of darkness that hangs over the action like smog. But, there always seems to be more. It teases us with sensations, visually and intimately. As sinister as it looks, the cityscape has a come hither quality; it has the same sex appeal as Frank Miller’s Sin City. This is a dangerous future you want to visit with, a future where even the sight of waste being dumped has a certain poetry.

KD6.3-7 (K for short) is a Blade Runner (a synthetic human aka a replicant) employed by the LAPD to “retire” out-of-date replicants. The story begins with him arriving at a remote farm to retire a Nexus 8, an early model (Dave Bautista hitting all the right notes) who, before dying, speaks of having “seen a miracle”. On the property K (a perfectly subdued Ryan Gosling) finds a chest full of bones that he delivers to his superior, Madame (an icy Robin Wright). The history and implication of those bones are the basis for the journey ahead. For those familiar with the first chapter of this fantastic story, 2049 is nothing less than a natural progression. The cliffhanger to that chapter left us wondering just what Deckard, the original Blade Runner played by Harrison Ford, was. Scott, showman that he is, left it deliberately open-ended. Now, Villeneuve allows us to  unravel the mystery (he asks us to play sleuth) and the hook is trying to work out where K figures in the puzzle. The great news is it only grows more fascinating. The thrust of the film in the opening scenes suggests a detective story will unfold but Villeneuve and screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green resist anything so simple. There’s detail here, multitudes of it, and a memorable collection of characters lighting up the grid.

You have to wait for Ford’s appearance but he is right where we’d expect him to be, complete with a bottle of Johnnie Walker and a dog for company. Suspicious and hostile from the outset, his encounter with K is explosive yet, it would seem, neither stands a chance against Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), a deadly replicant who reports faithfully to her manufacturer Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and annihilates anyone who threatens his work.  But, as labyrinthine as the narrative is, it is the technical elements that continually amaze. In a perfect union, Roger Deakins’s cinematography and Dennis Gassner’s production design meet head on with the exquisite score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch (it echoes Vangelis’s original work like a mournful tribute). These elements are integral (and bigger than we’re used to) and seduce you into the film. It’s impossible to imagine the looming architecture and dangerous streets (one features a 20 foot tall ballerina) without their pounding basslines. Consider K’s car, a flying machine with a detachable roof that doubles as a drone and scouts the area for information (it responds to K’s voice commands). All of it, even the debriefings that K endures after each mission (fans of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” will smile), extends the hold the film has on us. In a world where technology allows you a holographic fantasy lover that with a little upgrading becomes flesh, the future has never looked so sensual.