“Blade Runner 2049”

A Spoiler-Free Film Review

“Blade Runner 2049”

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” is one of the biggest and best cult movies ever made. Its original form was famously dismissed by critics and general audiences alike, but subsequent re-edits and the persistent fluorescent and rainy vision of futurist Syd Mead have allowed it to stay relevant in pop culture to the point where it’s now viewed as a sci-fi masterpiece. The original “Blade Runner” introduced us to Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, a blade runner who has been assigned to hunt down and “retire” a group of replicants that have escaped their off-world home of slave labor and have returned to Earth in an effort to extend their predetermined death dates. During his investigation, he meets Rachael (Sean Young), a highly advanced replicant with whom he falls in love. In 2049 it’s still raining in Los Angeles, now it looks like thick sheets of sludgy sleet are pounding down-and those dark synths swirl in “Blade Runner 2049”, a colossal piece of retro-futuristic gorgeousness. Like its predecessor, the sequel is a genius blend of sci-fi aesthetics blended with a dense and complex noir narrative, this time around written by Blade Runner’s Hampton Fancher and Logan’s Michael Green. Telling too much of the plot would effectively ruin part of the experience of watching the mystery unfold for the first time, but can be explained in broad strokes.Gosling plays Officer K, a Los Angeles blade runner, just like Deckard many years before. The blade runners are still hunting down advanced replicants that don’t have expiration dates from an era that occurred right after the original film. Officer K is investigating a replicant named Sapper Morton, played by Dave Bautista and it’s this encounter that that thrusts K on the journey he will face for the rest of this very long story. And it’s probably no surprise that K will spend the whole film wrestling with his own identity and what’s real and what’s not – only probably not quite in the way you think. It’s this mystery that K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright, who is having a great year) wants to be squashed at all costs. On the flip side, the Tyrell Corporation from the first film is long gone and the scraps have been purchased by a biological farming company owned by Wallace (Jared Leto) – who also gets wind of this “mystery,” but wants it for himself, sending his own replicant, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to bring it back for him. None of this is remotely boring-it’s almost touching to see Hollywood upgrading one of its weirdest properties with a generous budget. But the best parts of “Blade Runner 2049” are when it’s pushing its setup into new territory. K has an affecting, sexually complex relationship with a hologram who pretends to make house with him (Ana de Armas). There’s an interlude in a radioactive Las Vegas, filled with the Elvis-and-Marilyn detritus of a long-vanished culture, that’s been brilliantly bleached out. (Veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins ups his game.) And it’s no spoiler to say that once again we meet the grizzled blade runner of yore, Harrison Ford, who reminds us that these movies were always about the most human of inventions, love, even if manufactured by machines. To be perfectly blunt, “Blade Runner 2049” is far better than anyone could have expected it to be. Decades-late sequels are almost never actually satisfying, let alone stand out in the shadow of its predecessor. Yet what Denis Villeneuve has created here is nothing short of phenomenal, crafting a movie that is just as epic, fascinating and beautiful as the original. With time and reflection, it may even be judged as the superior film.

By Ken Warren, 2017

Origin: USA | UK | Canada
Released: 2017
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas

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