Blade Runner 2049 Review
Written By: Nick Poulimenakos & Mathew ‘JJ’ Simoes
1982’s Blade Runner is a sci-fi cult classic. A film that, upon premiering, received mixed reviews and was quickly dismissed by moviegoers. Fast forward several years, and it is now looked at as a landmark in filmmaking thanks to its incredible visuals, existential themes and a phenomenal musical score. Which brings us to 2017, where a sequel has finally arrived. Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 takes us back to the dark, dystopian future and, long-story-short, it won’t take decades for people to realize how good this film truly is. Villeneuve has crafted an enriching, brutal, and beautiful story that will take audiences by storm and will remind us why we fell in love with the series in the first place.
Written by Hampton Francher (Blade Runner) and Michael Green (Logan), Blade Runner 2049 follows the story of Officer K, who works for the LAPD as a Blade Runner. K’s job is to hunt down and retire older replicant models but along the way, he unknowingly unearths a long-buried secret that can potentially plunge what’s left of society into chaos. This leads him to going on a journey to find Rick Deckard, a former blade runner who may be the key to finding the mysterious truth.
Since this review is spoiler free, we are going to avoid talking about the specifics of Blade Runner 2049. With this in mind, we will also be mindful about how we review the characters of the film. What we will divulge is how every single performance in this film is incredible. Ryan Gosling is in the lead role as Officer K and he shines in every scene he’s in. K is a stoic, brutal and heroic character who has a subtle yet very powerful feel to him. Harrison Ford is back, reprising the role of Rick Deckard from the original Blade Runner and instantly becomes the clear standout of the sequel. Ford delivers one of the most emotional and impactful performances of his career. It’s not easy reviving a 35 year old character but, much like in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ford seems right at home in the role. Jared Leto stars as main antagonist Niander Wallace and the films proves that, when given the right material, Leto is a master of his medium. His performance was ambient, mysterious, and just plain creepy as he fully dives into the role of blind replicant manufacturer. The biggest surprise of the film goes to Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, an employee of Wallace who’s incomprehensibly vicious and will do whatever it takes to please her boss. Finally, Ana De Armas rounds out the main cast as Joi, a character filled with love and wonder and brings a lot of levity to the otherwise broken world.
Blade Runner 2049 was the perfect sequel in that it took the themes from the first film and built on them, while providing a stand-alone piece of art. And this film is a piece of art. Blade Runner 2049 is fundamentally about what makes a human being, ‘human’. From the perspective of Wallace and other characters it’s about the physical body. However, the film is fundamentally opposed to this, with humanity being the connections human beings feel to others. It’s about love, the fibers that hold the physical together. This is shown in the sexual tensions felt by characters in the film, and the heavy use of sex in the advertising that covers Blade Runner 2049’s urban centers. That being said, the act of sexual intercourse is never seen in the film, but is merely teased in extended character interactions. This is because sex is not about physical satisfaction, but a symbol of two people connecting on a deeper level. Wallace views himself as a god, with the synthetics being his divinely created children, but he’s nowhere close to that status. Despite Wallace’s ability to create highly effective and human looking replicants, he cannot give his replicants the ability to connect with others.
The world of Blade Runner is a potential escalation of the one we live in at present, where corporations rule and human beings are just another resource. Wallace essentially creates a slave force that has the potential to be so much more, and he wants to use this potential to gain more power. Wallace’s power is shown in great length, as his company is so influential that Wallace can do whatever he wants with no legal consequences. The advertisements, if you pay attention close enough, are the ones from the original Blade Runner. In terms of continuity this is because more recent companies would not exist in the world of Blade Runner. However, this can also be a metaphor for how things never seem to change. Back in the 1980’s, Blade Runner came from a concern over the growing control corporations have over America, and this concern is just as prevalent in our present. If anything, the world we live in today proves were on the same track as the world of Blade Runner. Blade Runner presents a depressing and bleak future for humanity, one very reflective of current times. The film also reminds its audience that we can fight this future, and our present, by holding onto our connections with others, and our ability to care for each other.
Normally, our reviews keep the cinematography portion for the end of the review. But Blade Runner 2049 has done something special. Roger A. Deakins, who worked with Denis Villeneuve on Sicario and Prisoners, returns as cinematographer for this film and it might be his most stunning film yet. Deakins has captured the most beautifully destroyed world in modern cinema. His use of light is incredible as we are fully immersed in the various locations the film takes us to, such as Wallace’s manufacturing headquarters, the dreary LAPD station or a ruined and abandoned Las Vegas. Deakins knows exactly how to frame every single shot and makes great use of miniatures instead of CGI. It’s as if you want the movie to pause for just a moment to fully appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty that is 2049.
Before the film’s release, Villeneuve’s go-to composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson was selected to compose the film’s music. However, Jóhannsson left the project in September and was subsequently replaced by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. While their score doesn’t reach the heights that Vangelis’ synthesizer-heavy original, Zimmer’s and Wallfisch’s score in fantastic in its own right. Both do a great job of creating the tension and made for wonderful quiet and impactful moments.
If we had to mention any negatives for the sequel, it would have to be the pacing. Blade Runner 2049 is a long film, clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes. This is a film where you need to pay attention to every little detail and it threatens to lose the audience at times. There is only so much a visual can do to grab your attention. While mystery is what keeps fueling the plot, at times, the ongoing runtime has your forgetting about what you’re watching.
Blade Runner 2049 blew us away. Denis Villeneuve created a masterful neo-noir sci-fi classic that goes toe-to-toe with the movie that preceded it. The gritty, fragmented streets of Los Angeles look mesmerizing on the big screen and the overarching themes will have you thinking about this sequel for days. Decade’s late sequels are generally never fulfilling but Villeneuve, Deakins and the ensemble cast have created something that can only be described as brilliant. If you’re going to see any film this weekend, or in the month of October for that matter, make it Blade Runner 2049.
Nick’s Rating – 8.9/10
Mathew’s Rating – 8.8/10
Artur’s Rating – 8.5/10
Are you excited to watch Blade Runner 2049? Let us know in the comments and on social media!
Blade Runner is in theatres everywhere now.
From Nick, Artur and Mathew, Talkies Network wishes you all a very happy thanksgiving! Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the course of this past year. We wouldn’t be here without you.