Review - 'Blade Runner 2049'
Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel that nobody asked for and nobody thought they needed. The original is such a classic stand-alone film that never warranted continuation. In the hand of any other director, this could have been exactly what people thought it was going to be; a nostalgia-driven cash-in. Fortunately, this film fell in lap of Denis Villeneuve, arguably one of the best up-and-coming directors of our time. Thus Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of my favorite films of the year, and I guarantee you've never seen a film like this and on this scale.
The film follows K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant agent whose job is to retire (kill) other replicants who have since expired and escaped the law. Upon discovery that there might be a child born from replicants, he is tasked to track it down and retire he/she as well.
It is a modern miracle that this film exists, not because it's a sequel to Blade Runner, but because it's actually a full-on art house film with a huge budget. This is not your typical blockbuster, not in the slightest. This is a film that is much more interested in making you think than simply entertaining. If I had to put a percentage on how much action is in this film, it would probably fall in the range of ten percent, maybe even less. Blade Runner 2049 tells its story through meaningful character moments, world exploration and visuals. In some ways it's a sprawling epic, in others, it's a very contained character piece and every element is balanced to perfection.
Denis Villeneuve really nails the ebb and flow of what made the first Blade Runner work so well. The original was not a film made for everyone, it was methodically paced and more importantly it was the film Ridley Scott wanted to make. Blade Runner spoke to a specific audience and so does 2049. Villeneuve made a film that also intends to play the long game; it may not "entertain", but it will intrigue and undoubtedly be dissected and talked about for years to come.
Blade Runner 2049 likens and distinguishes itself from its predecessor in all of the right areas. This film is a continuation of the first film in the most natural of ways. There are plot strands from the first film that are picked back up, but it also blazes its own trail and justifies itself as its own necessary entity. Unlike The Force Awakens, which completely apes the style of the original Star Wars trilogy, 2049 takes just enough elements from the first film to be familiar, but also completely new.
Another one of the main selling points of Blade Runner 2049 are its visuals. This film is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. There are few films that come to mind that look as mind-blowingly good as Blade Runner 2049 does. Famed cinematographer Roger Deakins shoots this film perfectly, displaying the dystopian, futuristic Los Angeles in glorious, stark detail. This film is the reason you buy a high-definition television and it's going to be a showpiece for many people's entertainment rooms when it hits physical release.
The film also has an excellent cast of characters, all of which bring their A-game to the proceedings. Ryan Gosling is a pitch-perfect successor to Harrison Ford's Deckard from the original film. Much like Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road, Gosling knows how to do a lot with a little and convey emotions primarily through his eyes. Ana De Armas also turns in a star-making performance as an A.I. that clearly has a soul. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard, and while he doesn't really bring anything new to the character, he is still a welcome presence and slips back into character seamlessly. My only mild complaint revolves around Jared Leto's villain, who is a pretty run-of-the-mill bad guy.
Blade Runner 2049 isn't quite a perfect film. There are few sub-plots that don't come to a satisfying conclusion and come off as filler in the grand scheme of things. Also, just like the first film, there are questions left unanswered, only the questions this film asks aren't quite as interesting or compelling as they were in its predecessor. Still, none of these criticisms are enough to drag this film down from being a masterpiece.
All said, Blade Runner 2049 is a stunning cinematic achievement. It's a film that won't captivate everyone, but for those willing to give in to its spell, it is sure to be an infinitely rewarding experience and will likely to stand the test of time, just like its predecessor.