Blade Runner 2049

Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto

Denis Villeneuve has been on a hot streak in recent years.  He started with the visceral abduction thriller Prisoners.  Then, he delivered a beast of a movie in the epic crime drama Sicario.  After that, he crafted last year’s sci-fi and awards darling Arrival.  As he’s been putting out one hit after another, he’s brought fresh, original cinema to the box office at a time when it’s so desperately needed.  That’s why I was very intrigued that he ventured into Ridley Scott’s world of Blade Runner to cook up a sequel.  After all, it’s been some three and a half decades, and no one outside of hardcore fans has been clamoring for this.  2019 is knocking on the door.  While we may not have replicants yet, it’s terribly difficult to offer a truly futuristic vision anymore, a pivotal task to follow up the inventive 1982 original.  Having said that, my doubts were put to rest the other night at around 7pm because Villeneuve’s follow-up blew me away.  Blade Runner 2049 simply blew me away.

The year is 2049.  Since the Tyrell Corporation’s collapsed under the weight of its company’s failed model of replicants, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) swooped in and acquired the bankrupt company.  He revitalized it by enhancing Tyrell’s formula for replicants, namely creating a finite lifespan for each replicant built.  Still, the old models hide to survive, and there is a need for special police officers known as blade runners to take them down.  The film follows a LAPD blade runner known as K (Ryan Gosling), a newer model replicant tasked with hunting down his older counterparts.  After taking down replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and finding the remains of the infamous replicant Rachael (Sean Young), K is instructed by his commanding officer Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) to dig further into the case and eliminate any loose ends.  All roads lead to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and something that happened on June 10, 2021.  Wallace’s personal replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) also keeps a close eye on the LAPD’s investigation.  Meanwhile, K’s romance with his lover Joi (Ana de Armas), a hologram-based product from Wallace’s corporation, blossoms.

I’ve got nothing but praise for Blade Runner 2049.  Creatively refreshing, boldly throwback, and utterly glorious, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel is a stylistic and visionary cinematic feast that lives up to Ridley Scott’s 1982 original in every way.  At this point in the digital revolution, it’s hard for any movie to come across as truly futuristic.  After all, it’s the age of Alexa.  It’s the age of Tesla.  It’s the age of hologram concerts.  Still, Villeneuve manages to blur the lines between what is digital and what is real.  The film includes holograms that are interactive operating systems touching our world in very real ways and replicants challenging conventional notions of what constitutes a living thing.  This is mind-bending stuff that stuck with me for days.  It is science fiction at its finest.  Moreover, Blade Runner 2049 is an instant sci-fi classic in its own right.

Stylistically, Blade Runner 2049 blends many of the elements we’ve seen in Sicario and Arrival.  At the same time, there’s a retro element to Villeneuve’s direction here that harkens back to the 80s and to the film’s predecessor.  Like Sicario, there’s no doubt that this film can be characterized by an unmistakable ferocity.  This can be heard in the thunderous score that accentuates blood being spilt all over this violent dystopian world.  Like Arrival, the film creates an immersive experience rooted in rich mythology.  This can be seen in the stunning, breathtaking visuals that embody all that’s changed since Rick Deckard walked the streets of Los Angeles.  Like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 offers an elegant storyline that elevates the man versus machine conflict that defines so many sci-fi films to greater heights.  Serving up a winding narrative that defies conventional notions by playing to humanity’s worst instincts, the film zigs every time you expect it to zag in quite a thrilling way.

The cast is absolutely superb.  We’ve got one of the most iconic actors of his generation on hand in Ryan Gosling.  For his part as K, Gosling gives the most introverted performance we’ve seen from him since Drive.  In this kind of performance that focuses on minimizing his personhood, every nuance of his facial expressions and body language matter in a big way.  That being said, Gosling manages to make this quite a compelling performance.  Reprising his role as Rick Deckard, Harrison Ford reminds us why he is one of the greatest movie stars of all time.  For the most part, he’s an old man seeing new evils in familiar faces.  Despite his relatively short time on screen, he captivated moviegoers as he doles out his trademark charm and biting nuggets of wisdom.  We also have solid supporting performances from Robin Wright as headstrong LAPD commanding officer Lt. Joshi, Sylvia Hoeks as the ruthless, relentless replicant Luv, and Jared Leto as the creepy and eccentric corporate titan Wallace.

Blade Runner 2049
may not get the love it deserves at the box office, but it will get no shortage of love from me.  Visionary Denis Villeneuve knocks it out of the park with this stylish, innovative sci-fi thriller.  This is not your typical movie.  I repeat.  This is not your typical movie.  Brilliant from start to finish, Blade Runner 2049 gets a sober rating.  Don’t miss this one!