Ridley Scott’s 1982 tech-noir masterpiece “Blade Runner” was one of the best films ever made. The original is my favorite film, and now 35 years later, the sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” dared to tango with its predecessor. It was without a doubt the best movie of the year so far. Caution for spoilers.
In the years since Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) departed the blade runner department, the environment of Los Angeles has changed dramatically. Replicants are now allowed to live on earth, as they are much easier to recognize and their ability to form emotions has supposedly been removed by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), the new leader of replicant manufacturing. K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner, begins investigating a replicant freedom movement, which leads him to uncover a secret that threatens to destroy humanity’s perception of life as it stands today. The man with the answers he needs is Deckard.
Denis Villeneuve is a careful director. Every single shot of his work is measured and balanced to convey everything he desires. Villeneuve and Roger Deakins, his frequent collaborator and cinematographer extraordinaire, have brought to life an absolutely stunning world.
Its darker outside shots capture a bleak society that is overcrowded and obsessed with consumerism. This semi-perpetual bleakness is broken up by the constant neon lights which serve as their only hopeful images. Wallace Corporation directly contrasts this, though, as it is flooded with dazzling light that shimmers and ebbs like a twisted gold pool.
These choices of lighting and color scheme perfectly convey the film’s mood and Villeneuve’s ideas about humanity’s descent into madness. Humans still cast a downward eye towards replicants, calling them “skinjobs” and forcing them to remove all evidence of humanity from their person. We realize early in the film that K is both a replicant and a blade runner, an effectively subtle metaphor towards governments forcing people to fight and kill their own kind.
Alongside this theme are multiple others which resonated with me: the power of miracles, the inevitability of revolution, the power of choice and the destructive power of humanity’s hubris. Villeneuve’s film postulates that free will is the most important facet of human life. Such a hopeful opinion of humanity makes for an engaging narrative into an otherwise bleak world, but “Blade Runner 2049” pulls off its brief moments of optimism as well. If Villenueve’s opinion of what constitutes humanity is the ability to choose and make choices not in your self-interest, then most of the artificial characters in this film are more human than those actually made of flesh and bone.
Speaking of which, the characters in this film are splendid. Gosling’s K is stoic, frightening and infectiously charismatic. He’s a tender soul, and Gosling’s ability to subtly convey the moral war going on in K’s mind makes for one of the most intriguing arcs of the story. Ford effortlessly jumps right back into the sarcastic and self-loathing Deckard perfectly. He’s been beaten down by society, the hunter becoming the hunted. Leto, too, is surprisingly good as the villainous captain of industry. His god complex and creep factor is through the roof as he carelessly creates life and dispatches it whenever he sees fit.
Truthfully, there isn’t a moment in “Blade Runner 2049” that isn’t absolutely stunning from a visual perspective. Deakins’ command of mixing computer-generated and practical effects makes for the most beautiful film in years.
Everything about “Blade Runner 2049” is handled spectacularly. The well-balanced commentary on humanity’s capacities for good and evil, the haunting industrial score from Hans Zimmer, Deakins’ beautiful cinematography and the all around incredible acting make this film not just a worthy sequel, but the best film of 2017 so far.
5 out of 5 stars.