Movie Review: Does ‘Blade Runner 2049’ know of its perfection?
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green, Hampton Fancher (story by), Philip K. Dick (based on characters from the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Robin Wright
Synopsis: A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.
Take a moment to consider this: If the 1982 film was a cloud, it would awe any nephologist in existence. Not enough people were there to appreciate it upon debut, but it kept on successfully demanding for a second, third, fourth and fifth look. Then there’s its shadows, which are visible in subsequent genre entries (live-acted and animated), music, fashion, and understanding of future concepts. A cloud that, for 35 years, not only refuses to dissipate, but instead grows in the collective conscience of filmdom – isn’t that a meteorological miracle or what?
“Eh, not really” sure isn’t what this writer think at the close of his tour of 2049 California. Houston that afternoon was identical to that in Theater 9: drenched, in both rainwater and the tungsten shade that d.o.p. Roger Deakins let permeate in most daylight scenes. Has Blade Runner’s influence reached a point where it could affect the weather? The unnerving-yet-fascinating thought was nullified when other moviegoers pulled out iPhones and Galaxies rather than tapping their palms, who arrived in everything but sliders from Peugeot.
Anyhow, even without that little reality-blurring act, Blade Runner 2049 still assembles enough magic to frame itself as the year’s most transcendent experience. In every way, this is the unicorn 2017’s box office has been seeking.
“Retiring” older-model androids is the job of K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner working for the LAPD and under close supervision of Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright). He looks young-ish, but is experienced in dealing with occupational hazards – as long as none of them resembles a date that may undo K’s identity and upturn the order that replicant-maker Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) has long cherished. Despite two narrative branches herculean in significance and ramifications, writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green have woven them with an elegiac thread, referencing the past in brief-but-potent notes while concurrently sowing intriguing futures. The looking-ahead mentality makes watching the (Final Cut of the) first film optional instead of compulsory, but do consider it nonetheless. Time it with a rainy day. Double-bill, even, if possible.
Sorry for the vagueness, but us Texans have a few bullet points to abide to. Whatever floats Warner Bros.’ boat, perhaps, yet the marketing department is revealing “forbidden” elements themselves. Also, similar to its predecessor, the juiciest part in 2049’s story lies in its themes and not proceedings.
In the same vein as another Ridley Scott-involved sci-fi released in May, Alien: Covenant, there are a few world-building shorts worth taking a look at, contained narratives that are mentioned in passing in the big film. Humans or otherwise – time is running out for both kinds in 2049, and the survival of one may require the complete submission of another. As with all of his previous smaller-in-scope and more-grounded films, director Denis Villenueve taps into the narrative’s psychological tides, those whose ebbs and flows kindle the existential quandaries Philip K. Dick raised right from the title of Blade Runner’s source material. With this approach, at certain times Villenueve lets the images speak for themselves, no need for other filmic elements to play intermediary.
No need for doubt, too, when meeting the faces Villenueve has picked to populate 2049. Comparing to Deckard (Harrison Ford, returning here), Gosling moves through the film with as much coolness and, noticeably, more of the doubt resulting from his actions. Quite funnily, the story shuts down K’s human-or-replicant argument in the first act as opposed to allowing it to roam for decades. This is actually wise, since Blade Runner’s focal is a matter of “many” rather “one,” affecting both those with flesh-and-blood and those with circuits-and-clockwork. Grand conversation topic, indeed, but K’s delicate and loving companion, Joi (Ana de Armas), always expresses it with concision and endearment.
Regarding the villainous side, while Leto graces with a soothing turn as a blind and erudite visionary, making more of an impression is Sylvia Hoeks who plays Wallace’s dutiful assistant Luv. Don’t be fooled by the disarming name: There is a scene where she is seen executing an airstrike while getting her nails done. At times when tears are racing down her chin, Hoeks doesn’t just preserve Luv’s menace but, perplexingly, manages to amplify it. What the Dutch actress has done will breezily vault her to the upper echelons of many “best performances of 2017” lists.
Audiovisual, however, is on another level of greatness. Deakins’ work ought to get him that overdue Oscar; there is only beauty and clarity no matter if the scene is cluttered with details or just the raging, pitch-black ocean. It should be noted that some of the most breathtaking details are all in-camera, done via a projector in a foggy room or lights through rippling water. Also varied in style yet consistent in quality is Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score, which switches between riffing Vangelis to elegantly materialize the specter of memory and, presumably, employing a Ducati to teleport viewers to a riotous metropolis inundated with ads, secrets, and Syd Mead/Metal Hurlant-inspired structures.
In short, this is the kind of photography and score that can make flowers sprout from rubble. Instead of using these aspects to mask flaws, like a fair share of films from this year, 2049 makes them the second cherry-on-top sundae above the one made by the cast and rest of the crew.
Never “seen a miracle,” a replicant gruffly said to K, passing out the first breadcrumb to a sensational truth. Little does K know, but what’s for him is also for the viewers, and – look away if needed – here is what lies at the end for us: A perfect sequel and, arguably, film in recent memory.
Overall Grade: A+
Hear our podcast review on Episode 242, coming soon.