–Note from Patrick Campbell: Blade Runner 2049 is a rare instance where the plot of the film is a spoiler. With that in mind, the plot of the film will not be talked about within this review at the wishes of the filmmaker. I implore anyone interesting in checking out Blade Runner 2049 to do so spoiler free, and just let the movie unfold in front of you. —
Well, it finally happened. After thirty five years, we finally got a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, aptly titled Blade Runner 2049. We’ve all waited with baited breathe to see how Blade Runner 2049 would come together, and when WB managed to get Denis Villeneuve on board to direct, everything clicked into place real quick. With his style and sensibilities, only to get Ryan Gosling to star and Harrison Ford to return, Blade Runner 2049 immediately became a must see event film. This is a sequel to one of the most iconic science fiction films of all time, so of course nervous anticipation is at an all time high. Did they roll the dice and win, or are fans out of luck? That’s always the question with something like this, but thankfully with the talent here, it’s not shock that Blade Runner 2049 is nothing but a massive home run.
Out the gate, it’s clear that Denis Villeneuve doesn’t believe in trying to reinvent the look of Blade Runner, which is for the best. This world already felt so incredibly interesting and realized, and instead of trying to take it in a new direction, Villeneuve instead decides to dive deeper into it. The neon colors, the rain, the dim corridors, even the ads on the streets all carry that familiar dystopian vibe that made the original film so iconic. But Blade Runner 2049, as much as it loves to play in this world, is much more interested in what’s boiling under the surface. In much of a mirror of our time with the current race relations in our world, this seedy looking future is facing its own war within itself, as humans and Replicants (Humanoid robots) are facing a crucial tipping point in their already unstable relationship. Villeneuve understands that the best science fiction stories are a mirror back at the audience and their world, and you’ll find that he does that in many different ways throughout Blade Runner 2049.
But the truth is, the deeper one dives into the story of this film, the quicker you’re going to spoil the film for yourself. This is the rare instance where the plot of the film is actually a spoiler, which makes this so much more interesting to talk about. But the truth of the matter is, you’re better not knowing exactly what’s happening within this film when you go in, because watching the mystery unfold in front of your eyes is so much more satisfying. This movie definitely pulls from its noir detective roots, and crafts a labyrinth of twists and turns that one must see to believe. Fans of the original are going to be happy to see that this is truly a Blade Runner sequel, but those who aren’t fans of the original may not be swayed in a new direction. This is everything you remember about the original, taken to the next level.
What Denis Villeneuve has done well though is crafted a film that, even if you haven’t seen the original, can still play to a new audience. In fact, that may be one of the best things about this new film. Blade Runner has an unusual history, with five separate cuts of the film existing over time, which has made it hard for newcomers trying to discover the film. But much like Disney did with Tron Legacy, Blade Runner 2049 reintroduces the world in such a way that is exciting for both fans and newcomers to this world. In letting so much time pass within the world of Blade Runner you almost have to treat this as a sort of soft reboot of the property. Villeneuve, along with returning Blade Runner screen writer Hampton Fancher and co-writer Michael Green, have truly made a film that not only complements the original in many ways, but also expands on it. The way they’ve built out of the original and let the world grow in new ways is really fascinating, with so much history now existing between the opening of the original to the last frame of this one. In fact, this is a world that would be so rich to explore later that doing prequels set sometime before the events of Blade Runner 2049 could be interesting, because the world has changed a lot in those thirty years.
One of the most important things about this film overall though is the look, and Villeneuve has re-teamed with the great Roger Deakins to bring the world of Blade Runner 2049 to life. Deakins, who has been criminally denied an Academy Award to this point for his cinematography, has crafted what may be the most visually striking film of the year with his work here. The film is just art frame by frame, in only away that Deakins can create, and every scene feels like a well thought out painting. The use of lighting in every scene is truly remarkable as well, as it is perfectly used to convey the tone of each scene. In a lot of ways, it’s very similar to how Mad Max Fury Road used its color palette to really drive the narrative and create the film’s world, Deakins has done similar work, really making a film that vividly pops off the screen. This is one of the most beautiful films you’ll ever get to wtiness, with no exaggeration, which is reason enough to check it out.
Of course, you can’t talk about this film without mentioning Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, who are the heart and soul of the film. Gosling is at the height of his career here, and gives what may be one of his strongest performances as our new Blade Runner. He captivates you every second he’s one screen, truly making a character that the audience can rally behind. Ford as well gives a great performance as he returns as Rick Deckard, the character he played over thirty years ago. Deckard is much different now, living with the weight of the world on his shoulders, truly a broken man. But some of that classic Ford charisma shines through as well, reminding the audience exactly why Ford has been an A list actor for so long. Many like to say that Ford has slept walked through some of his roles in recent years, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth here. This is Ford at the apex of the second half of his career, and he truly gives it his all. Also, both Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks give great supporting performances, and they own the screen whenever they’re on. In fact, almost everyone in this film is great, and really add to the world around them. That’s truly a testament to Villeneuve and how he works with his actors, because there really doesn’t seem to be a miscast character or a weak link at all, which is truly remarkable.
The one thing that’s certain though is Blade Runner 2049 is a triumph in just about every way. Coming thirty five years after the original, Denis Villeneuve has made a film that is not only worthy of Ridley Scott’s classic, but is worthy of the audience as well. A sequel like this can be nearly impossible to pull off, but Villeneuve tackles it with the right amount of nostalgia, mixed with a a great story, making this a perfect followup the original. Backed with fantastic performances from his leads in Gosling and Ford, this is a truly special film that will leave audiences dissecting it and discussing it for years to come. It took Ridley Scott five cuts to make Blade Runner a truly incredible film, but Villeneuve has thrown the gauntlet down with one film as the man who fully grasps this world, and what makes it so endlessly interesting. We don’t deserve Blade Runner 2049, but thank the maker that it exists.