It’s unprecedented the pressure that director Denis Villeneuve must have felt making a sequel to the beloved and critically acclaimed Blade Runner. How do you better a film that many consider perfect, while also building on its thirty-five legacy and reputation?
Blade Runner 2049, however, is well worth the long wait. To say too much about the films twisted and enthralling storyline would be to spoil the surprises and they deserve to be appreciated on the biggest screen possible.
“This is Gosling’s movie, however, and arguably his one of his greatest performances.”
In short, K, played by Ryan Gosling is a blade runner, in the same role as Harrison Ford’s Deckard years before him, hunting down old bioengineered beings known as replicants, manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation. On one particular case, he finds a box that, upon its opening, propels him down a road of revelations and secrets from the past that forces him to track down Deckard.
It’s a slow burn; among a 143-minute runtime there are only a few action sequences and their tenures are rather brief. This is a blockbuster in name and budget but instead of explosions, it’s designed to captivate and entrance the audience in its themes, scenery and characters, all framed to perfection by regular Villeneuve collaborator, cinematographer Roger Deakins. The world of Blade Runner captivated viewers thirty-five years ago and Deakin’s cinematography in 2049 only expands on the dystopian, prismatic amalgamated world that Los Angeles has become.
Villeneuve opts to explore new locations instead, rather than the hybrid nature of the hybrid nature of Tokyo and LA. Deakins treats each as it deserves, Los Angeles feeling claustrophobic and dishevelled while Las Vegas feels vast and desolate, the yellow tint making it feel like a lonely desert, lost to the bustling busy world portrayed earlier.
Technical quality aside, the performances are just as spectacular. Ford is his traditional irascible self but isn’t phoning his performance in. Deckard goes through the ringer here and Ford sells every moment of the tortured soul, facing a life filled with heartbreak and tragedy that he left behind. Ana De Armas is a stand out as Joi, K’s holographic companion who feels as real as any other character. A scene with her, K and Mackenzie Davis’s lady of the night, Mariette is a highlight in terms of emotion, performance and arguably the year’s greatest special effect. This is Gosling’s movie, however, and arguably his one of his greatest performances. K is complex, looking for a purpose, conflicted by his lawful responsibilities when morals enter the fray. He carries the film for most of its runtime and while his screen time with Ford is painfully brief, their chemistry is palpable as they bring the film to its climatic and evocative end. The last shot of the film is so simple and so masterful and ends this particular chapter of the universe.
By Alex Lewis.