Title: Blade Runner 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Ana De Armas
Runtime: 164 Minutes
What It Is: The year is 2049–30 years since the events of the original Blade Runner–and Officer K (Gosling) is a new generation replicant Blade Runner with the LAPD, tasked with hunting down older generation replicants. The mysteries of one of his tasks, however, opens up a new and troubling mystery, one capable of collapsing the very foundations of society, and which K believes may hold the answers to the questions of his own past.
What We Think: If one seeks a display of talent as a kind of resumè for director Denis Villeneuve, look to his work prior to this film: Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners, these three which form a hat trick, and on their own mark him as one of the greatest and most impressive filmmakers working today. Roger Deakins, the cinematographer, is already a legend in his field, and the more he works it’s like the better he gets, merging dozens of styles and techniques from some of the greatest before him into an adaptive, cohesive, unique and stunning whole. And with a score provided by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, and you have a godly foundation for a film to stand upon, which is just what a sequel to Blade Runner needed, and exactly what it delivered.
In every way, Blade Runner 2049 is an overwhelming experience of the senses: your eyes are treated to breathtaking visuals; your ears are enveloped in a synthesized, moody score over meticulous sound design capturing the many sounds of the future and the constant washing of rain; your intellect is stimulated by way of a thought-provoking story and philosophical themes that build off of the original film’s questions while standing perfectly on their own. What does it mean to be human in a world with artificial intelligence? Is being born as a human being necessarily the only thing that can make you human? Is your identity limited to your origins, or are your choices and your actions perhaps more important? In the realm of mainstream cinema, a film like this is a precious rarity, one that dares challenge its audience intellectually and philosophically; one that dares move to steady, brooding rhythms like its legendary predecessor, never spoon-feeding its audience, never easing its often meditative pace in order to appease those of a shorter attention span or who need more blockbuster-like gratification. It establishes itself as its own entity separate from the original by way of having its own story and exploring its themes through its new characters and their stories, all the while never forgetting the origins it came from. Add on top of all this the great performances that populate it–Gosling’s understated, stoic K and his gentle love for a virtual woman, and the questions that haunt him beneath the surface; Ford’s aged, hardened Deckard, and his inability to escape the past–and you have the most impressive film of 2017 and possibly beyond, a sequel to a film that practically invented its own form of sci-fi, and on its own stands as its own unique sci-fi achievement.
Our Rating: A+, Although this goes largely unappreciated by most moviegoers, Blade Runner 2049 does not rightfully fall into the category of a mainstream film; rather, it is a big-budget arthouse film. I emerged from the theater in an awed daze, still wrapt in its rain-soaked, moody, arresting atmosphere, and ready to see it again. This film is something of a miracle, not only justifying its existence by way of its sheer brilliance and astoundingly good script, but by giving the original a true run for its money. I, for one, prefer the new Blade Runner to the original, even if it feels like sacrilege to say. It may lack a villain as compelling as Roy Batty, but this can be forgiven as it tells a different kind of story, one that is as emotionally compelling as it is philosophically rich and thought-provoking. It will soak you in its atmosphere if you let yourself be absorbed into it. Days later and I still feel like I’m living in its world, still freshly remembering what it was like to be assailed by its craft, its awe-inspiring visuals, its incredible sounds. Needless to say, if you can see this in a theater, see it in the best one you can. You may emerge from it feeling like you’ve seen something other people wouldn’t believe: like seeing attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion; like watching C-Beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.