The original Blade Runner is one of the most widely loved cult classics out there and so it is with much trepidation that fans have been eagerly awaiting the sequel. 35 years later Blade Runner 2049 arrives.
The main character this time is Officer K (Ryan Gosling) a new built replicant with a limited lifespan, tasked with the ‘retiring’ of the last few early gen models, who are considered to be dangerous. Though we are informed that the new builds are supposed to be much more docile, this doesn’t seem to be the case with K who appears to be a finely tuned killing machine!
Having said that the action is relatively sparse here but when the film heats up, the violence explodes in a flurry of barely concealed rage before dissapearing once again. This is no action film and it’s also not a film that seems to be in too much of a rush. With a 164 minute run-time you’d better be in for the long haul. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t feel a minute too long as Blade Runner 2049 makes it clear that it will be adopting a more leisurely pace than most modern films. Once you’ve accepted this pace, the film washes over you, enticing you to be drawn in and lost in this expansive world.
The world itself doesn’t feel too dissimilar to the original, rather a natural continuation which makes perfect sense. Earth is in a much worse state than it was 30 years ago however, the environment is left in a complete mess and it follows that the film is all the more strangely beautiful for it. Thick smog, freak storms and toxic snow are all a treat for the eyes. And it’s not just the set design, the cinematography is utterly incredible. Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best looking films to date and if Roger Deakins doesn’t finally walk away with an Oscar this year then it will be a great injustice! Each frame’s composition is carefully constructed, the use of lighting is nothing short of genius and the colours feel so rich you can almost taste them. Somehow.
Blade Runner 2049 greets you with a low bass rumbling that you feel in your chest. It’s a kind of mechanical, industrial thrum that reemerges throughout the film whenever there’s a need to install panic and dread into the hearts of the audience. At times it’s fit to burst and just when you think it might never end it does just that, plunging you into silence. It’s truly breathtaking.
So what is it that sets this sequel apart from the original? It’s Ryan Gosling. Or rather its a combination of Gosling’s performance and the intricacies of the character. In the original I found it difficult to care too much about Deckard. It’s almost as though all of Harrison Ford’s 80’s roles could all blend into one - that of the brash, loud, unempathtic ‘hero’ very typical of the 80’s. Not my cup of tea.
What we have here however is a character who is faced with his own false reality and it’s intriguing from the very beginning to the very end. There’s a strange detachment in Gosling’s performance with an undercurrent of humanity which fights its way to the surface at key moments. He’s resigned to his lot in life most of the first half, happy to be taking orders but there’s a switch that reveals the conflict in his character, his own internal struggle. It’s good stuff!
Away from the main story this manifests itself excellently in the interactions between K and his holographic girlfriend, Joi (Ana De Armas). These scenes are gratuitous with time, as is a certain meeting later on, but it all feeds into the deeper motives and pay off of certain story moments. Blade Runner 2049 is a long and winding tale but always falls just short of falling into narrative madness!
Only time will tell whether the sequel will live up to the legacy of the original film but one thing’s for certain, Denis Villeneuve and his team have crafted an incredible film that is more than worthy of a trip to the cinema as soon as you possibly can!
written by Bradley Allen