For those of us who are obsessed with all things film, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner arrived in 1982 and served as a moment in time that defined who we were and who we would become. It has stood the test of time. Scott’s second sci-fi stunner, after Alien, started being studied in film schools and instantly became a benchmark for the medium.
If there is anyone wielding a camera in 2017 that is worthy to take the Blade Runner baton and craft a sequel that could thrill longtime fans, ignite passion for the film for newbies and generally present to the world a film that could also stand brilliantly on its own, it is Denis Villeneuve.
The Arrival director earned his first Oscar nod for that work, but he has been stunning audiences since 2013’s Prisoners and then 2015’s Sicario. His films feel like they’re made by a soul with the firmest of command of the medium. At the least, he is a master storyteller and at the most, Villeneuve is the greatest filmmaker of his generation with decades of envelope-pushing work ahead of him.
Scott returns to the world he created decades ago as the executive producer of Blade Runner 2049 and his first stroke of brilliance was achieved by hiring screenwriters Hampton Fletcher and Michael Green. The former co-wrote the original and his command of the world first introduced in the Philip K. Dick novel is brilliance personified.
Scott’s second moment of genius was handing their script to Harrison Ford, who astoundingly revisits his Rick Deckard character. Ford returns to a role that he hasn’t visited in 30 years. The veteran actor is gifted a rich palette to craft an updated performance that is of the utmost importance and an integral part of the sizzling story that anchors the sequel.
The introduction of a new character to this world as a lead, an LAPD officer named “K” (played by Ryan Gosling), is a worthy soul to be leading this next generation of the Blade Runner canon. We follow him down a futuristic rabbit hole that is mysteriously nefarious and a haunting voyage of discovery that will have audiences cruising for over two hours with bated breath until the film’s jaw-dropping and mesmerizing conclusion.
Another spoke in this wheel of awesomeness is Villeneuve tapping his favorite cinematographer to bring the visuals to life. Cinematographer Roger Deakins has been nominated for an Oscar 13 times previously and if his work on Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t earn him his first victory, I will lose all faith in the establishment known as the Academy. He uses the visual image like no other. What he gives us with his latest may be his best, and that is truly saying something for the man who shot The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Jarhead and True Grit.
It is of utmost importance to everyone’s enjoyment of Blade Runner 2049 that no one discussing this instant classic reveal any plot points of any kind. The entire film is a spoiler! Beyond what one has seen in the Blade Runner 2049 trailer, there is nothing in that realm that should be discussed. The experience of witnessing it on the big screen must be without any frame of reference in terms of what is going to or may happen to the players involved in this marvel of moviemaking. It must be seen on the big screen and it is one of the rare films that we insist be seen repeatedly.
Blade Runner 2049 pushes the envelope in another arena. There is a bounty of brilliant actresses bringing their best in a varied cornucopia of roles that all play integral parts to the story. They may be villains, heroes or spectators, but each shares a common bond… they elevate the story and keep the tension, beauty and Blade Runner world spinning. Robin Wright dazzles as K’s police boss, Lieutenant Joshi. Sylvia Hoeks practically steals the movie with her layered and charismatically searing turn as Luv. Mackenzie Davis marvels as Mariette with Ana de Armas turning in a crushingly powerful performance as Joi.
Of all the actors to carry the torch of the Blade Runner world, handing it to Oscar nominee Gosling is a smart, savvy and most importantly, a sublime choice. Sure, his name brings in legions of fans and appreciators of his work. But it is Gosling’s talent that carries the day in that he is in almost every single scene and one could argue that he is the heart and soul of Blade Runner 2049.
Gosling gives his most nuanced performance to date and it is exactly what the material calls for on so many levels. His K grabs onto something mysterious and it is eating him alive. Digging ever deeper, he will not rest until he solves this mystery that may not have a clear answer that fits anything he can comprehend, understand or frankly, stomach. The truth could destroy the very fabric of whatever strings remain that are holding together society in the titular year. Gosling plays K as one of the more balanced souls in this unbalanced world, yet as the questions multiply and the answers become more complex and astute, the calm interior and exterior of our protagonist brilliantly waver until he is engulfed in a fire that cannot be extinguished until he uncovers the truth.
Ford returns to his Deckard and as he did with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, brings to a life a character that has been cinematically dormant for decades. Exactly as he did in J.J. Abrams’ galaxy far, far away revival, Ford provides an impeccable tether between a classic story and its decades-in-the-making resurrection. The price of all that is going on in Blade Runner 2049 becomes increasingly and painfully plastered on Ford’s weathered face as the film progresses. An emotional and societal peace hangs in the balance. In the hands of Ford, those of us who treasure the original classic, come to realize that this entire futuristic house of cards’ “stability” hinges completely on him and K joining forces to pave their way through an obstacle course of corrupted clutter.
Ford and Gosling make a perfect pair. Despite so much credit rightfully being lauded on the righteous work of wizards behind the camera, one cannot overstate how these two talented thespians take the promise of what could be for Blade Runner 2049 and firmly elevate it to a riveting and visceral visual experience that is beyond bliss.
Villeneuve’s gifts have been well documented since his arrival (no pun intended). As the credits roll on his Blade Runner 2049, it becomes astonishingly clear that the world of film has itself a maestro unlike we have seen for some time. Many come and go with promise in spades, but miss the mark on various occasions that show their human side. Thus far, this filmmaker has shown that he is working on an entirely different plane than his contemporaries. What he does with visual beauty, compelling landscapes (both literal and figurative), pacing, emotional ebb and flows and distributing his plot points with painstaking precision is nothing short of a demonstration of breathtaking otherworldly expertise.