Film Review: ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Director Denis Villeneuve returns to the bleak future envisioned in Ridley Scott’s seminal masterpiece…

Spoiler-free review 

Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford star in ‘Blade Runner 2049’, from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Starring:  Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Ana de Armis, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve / Written by: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green / 163 minutes

What’s it about?

‘Blade Runner’ Agent K’s investigation of a long-hidden secret leads him to former Agent Rick Deckard who hasn’t been seen in thirty years…

In review

It’s always tricky to follow up a classic, perhaps even more risky when the gap between films stretches across the decades.  Thirty-five years after the release of Ridley Scott’s celebrated science fiction detective noir, Blade Runner (based on the Philip K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”) comes the forever mooted sequel from Arrival and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049.  Whilst it doesn’t surpass Scott’s original, Villeneuve’s film deftly captures the look and feel of Blade Runner without merely imitating it, the filmmaker adding his own elements that serve as a progression, or continuation, of the ideas envisioned by Scott back in 1982.  This is one of the most visually striking pieces of cinema to grace the screen in recent years, the expansive, sprawling future Los Angeles cityscapes, seedy side-streets and sand drenched wastelands presented on a hugely epic scale that begs to be viewed on the largest of cinema screens.

Taking place some thirty years after the events of the original Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 introduces us to Agent K (Ryan Gosling) who is in the same line of work as Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard – a ‘Blade Runner’, assigned by the LAPD to hunt down and ‘retire’ (i.e. execute) renegade androids known as ‘Replicants’.  World-weary and asking questions of his place in the world of a rundown, hopeless future, K’s latest mission finds him drawn into a deep and dark mystery that poses a great threat to mankind.  To say much more would spoil the goods but the story ultimately leads to a meeting of the new and older generation of Blade Runners as K seeks out the elusive Deckard (Harrison Ford).

Ryan Gosling takes the centre stage in a nuanced and introspective performance that makes K feel like an uncanny yet natural successor to Deckard whilst making his own mark on the beaten-up and worn-down archetype of this dystopic detective story.  Heavily laden by the demands of his profession and his LAPD chief (Wonder Woman and House of Cards star Robin Wright), he’s consoled by his only companion, Joi (beautifully played by Ana de Armis) who is the only light in an otherwise bleak existence.  As for Harrison Ford, it takes a bit of time to get to him but it’s assuredly worth the wait and as much as he did in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ford slips comfortably back into another iconic role but certainly doesn’t rest on his laurels.  The meeting of K and Deckard is an anticipated moment and handled greatly.

There’s also Jared Leto (Suicide Squad’s Joker) who puts in a strong and carefully measured performance as blind corporate titan Niander Wallace, master of the newest generation of Replicants and the aspiring villain of the piece, his right-hand woman – an enforcer named ‘Luv’ (Sylvia Hoeks) – in place to deal with any potential threats from those who might try to interfere in Wallace’s goals in perfecting the “more human than human” design of his ’works’.

The running time of Blade Runner 2049 can be a little challenging given it’s protracted pace, but it does allow the viewer to become fully absorbed into the moody atmospherics and simply appreciate and be awed by those mesmerising and astonishing, Oscar worthy visuals by cinematographer Roger Deakins.  The screenplay from Hampton Fancher and Michael Green is suitably mysterious and fairly straight forward in the grand scheme of things but poses plenty of questions of existence and identity in a similar manner to the original Blade Runner and the dialogue is lean and purposeful.  At its core, Blade Runner 2049 is more of a thought-provoking, visually arresting piece of art-house cinema afforded the budget and scale of a $100+ million blockbuster than out-and-out popcorn action spectacle.  Where its action beats are called upon, Denis Villeneuve executes them with reserve and grace that, coupled with all of the film’s other elements make for a sequel should please both fans of Blade Runner and those who appreciate intelligently implemented cinema.

The bottom line:  Arresting, mysterious and delicately executed, Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy sequel to a revered science fiction classic.

Blade Runner 2049 is in cinemas now.

18 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Blade Runner 2049’

  1. I really enjoyed Blade Runner 2049, it was a visually stunning, and challenging film. Not quite the epic it’d been hyped as for sure, nothing could top the original IMOP, but was still very impressed by this new film. Awesome review as well!

  2. What was great about this sequel is that it captures for the most part the tone of the original while it expands that depressing future world. Those scenes with the snow and ashfall underlined the dystopian state of this crumbling world.

  3. Dennis Villeneuve is a God! I absolutely love every single movie he releases, and lately he’s been on a role. Almost a movie per year for the past 4-5 years where he kept on delivering absolutely stunning and depth-filled movies! Honestly, I actually have high, very high expectations for the movies he’s going to be potentially working on (including Dune; I’ll probably end up reading the book for that one before watching his movie too).

    I have to say that I’m a bit surprised that you’ve given the original Blade Runner more praise than Blade Runner 2049 though! I recently saw Ridley Scott’s movie and was disappointed by the story. For one, it really doesn’t do justice to the book and its ideas. But what I’ll give the movie though is its visuals and atmospheric setting. Ridley Scott definitely nailed that, and I’m glad Villeneuve sort of kept it and added his own touch to the universe. Great review though, sir. I do hope you’ll get the chance to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? soon. I wonder what you’ll think of the book and then about the original movie after reading it. 😛

    • Thank you sir! Well, my love of the original Blade Runner is due to me discovering it at a very early age and fond memories of watching my Dad’s video tape (wow, remember those things?) and my Dad’s appreciation of it…it’s in the blood I guess!

      As you can tell I’m also a huge fan of Vileneuve and that was really cemented with the exceptional ‘Arrival’. I’m most definitely excited to see how he tackles Dune.

  4. Love your review!! Hahhah sorry for not praising the first Blade Runner but like I said I REALLY liked the book and I think Ridley Scott didn’t really bother to stick with the main ideas haah 😦 BUT JARED LETO i nthis one def nailed it!

  5. I absolutely loved this film. I’m super excited to see what else Denis Vileneuve comes out with. After seeing Sicaro, Prisoners, Arrival and now Blade Runner, I’d blindly go watch anything with his name on it.

  6. I’m planning to watch this tomorrow, huge fan of Arrival, thanks for giving an insight! Does it matter if I’ve never seen the original? Thanks.

  7. Hello all, i find this content is similar to what I’ve been blogging about, hope you all check it out and i hope you enjoy. i specialise in film reviews as well as analysis. Thank You :)) ~ Addison Wright

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