Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Runtime: 163 minutes
I was ready to hate this film. I mean, viciously hate it. When I first heard this film was being made, I rolled my eyes and proceeded on a half-hour rant about the absolute sacrilege that was going to take place. I won’t go into detail about what exactly was said, except that there were multiple expletives mixed in with some pretentious film terms. I refused to watch the trailer. I refused to watch the shorts. I refused to even talk about the film. You see, I always cited Blade Runner as the greatest film of all time. Not necessarily my favourite, but the best. Now, this review serves to write these words down, in black and white, so I can now print this out and eat them.
Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to the influential, neo-noir sci-fi masterpiece that is Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic, Blade Runner. Set three decades after the original, the film follows K (Ryan Gosling), as he tries to unravel a mystery. You may see this plot summary, and realise how weak and feeble it is. You may also realise that I am not a very good reviewer if I can’t even summarise a film. While the second might be true, there is a reason I have not gone into much detail. The film’s plot is, from the first ten minutes, brimming with the unexpected. This review will not tackle any of the narrative. All you need to know is that it is engaging, visceral, and holds your interest for the full three-hour runtime.
So what can I talk about? Well, the visuals are stunning. They match the original film (notorious for its incredible futuristic landscapes) but are different enough to give the sequel its own unique aesthetic. The film expands on the original setting (a globalised, futuristic mid-city Los Angeles) to see the outskirts of the bustling civilisation. We see wastelands, dumps, and farms, and all of these settings are awash with incredible attention to detail. This film makes you value cinematography to the highest extreme. Every shot can be screenshotted, printed, and framed. You may run out of wall space, but to be honest, you’ll have some phenomenal decor. In regards to costuming, Ryan Gosling’s jacket is going to sweep the academy awards—I spent the entire film in wonderment of its gorgeousity.
I cannot say much about the characters (seriously, everything is a spoiler), but each one was engaging, intricate, and complex. Ryan Gosling could portray several layered emotions at once with a single glance. Following his character never felt like a chore—he played K with such soft purity that my mirror neurons were working overtime. Throughout the course of the film, his facial expressions alone both broke my heart and filled me with the purest joy. It’s been a long time since I have cried in the cinema, and this film gave me the fabled single-tear. Or maybe an ugly cry. It was dark in the cinema—nobody knew, okay? Harrison Ford actually seemed to care about his performance here, which is an incredible plus. He slipped back into the role of Deckard with relative ease and has given one of his best performances in a while. To be honest, his portrayal in the sequel seemed to have more emotional variance than in the original. It was nice to see that he wasn’t just in this for the paycheck.
So, pitfalls. Well, sitting in cinema seats for three hours results in a bit of numbness. While the film held my interest for 90% of that time, I felt myself trying to hurry along some of the more lingering shots. Also, the soundtrack doesn’t hold a candle to Vangelis’ sultry synthetic masterpiece. To be honest, it was just a lot of Inception-style droning, which got a little tiresome after a while. But really, that’s it. This film was a masterpiece, through and through. As the credits rolled, I sat in my seat both physically numb (as I said, cinema seats are unforgiving) and emotionally drained. I left the cinema in absolute silence. Sat in the car in silence. It was only when I got home, a cup of tea in hand, when I could fully articulate my thoughts on the film.
This is sci-fi cinema at its absolute finest. Dearest readers, and anyone I have ever annoyed with my aggressive opinions towards this film, I am truly sorry. I have never been happier to be wrong about a film in my entire life. I was, in fact, spectacularly wrong, and I promise to watch the theatrical cut of the original as penance for my terrible misdeeds.