Some films defy description, Blade Runner 2049 is one of them. It is a piece of cinema that completely washes over you, setting your mind and your senses on fire with its layered narrative that unfolds before you and presents a harrowing, yet beautiful vision of a far away future, and the meanings that it holds for humanity.
After he uncovers a dark secret that could lead to the end of humanity, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a ‘blade runner’, goes in search of the infamous and legendary Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to find the truth.
If your wanting plot, well that’s as much as you’re going to get. I pride myself on never revealing spoilers of any kind, and I must say that to attempt to refer to the plot of Blade Runner 2049 in a review would ultimately do a disservice to the scope, scale and size of this epic production. What acclaimed filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has done here is simply astonishing, and while the term auteur is regularly bandied about, and is applied to directors for just about every project, with Blade Runner 2049, the director rightfully earns this title. As a director, Villeneuve does the seemingly unthinkable and follows in the footsteps of the great master Ridley Scott, whose vision for the original Blade Runner was utterly groundbreaking. Villeneuve extends Scott’s original film into an even further future and builds a narrative that unfolds slowly, revealing a story that not only works on a narrative level but which also examines an array of complex themes.
The original Blade Runner was a stark and industrial look into a polluted and overcrowded future Los Angeles of 2017. Blade Runner 2049 is set 30 years later, and to put it bluntly the world has gone to hell. Call it the by-product of global warming gone wrong, this future is not the dream we all yearn for, but rather the dystopian nightmare we’d like to avoid. But while this slum cityscape makes for a harrowing environment for our characters, Villeneuve’s vision for this landscape is utterly magnificent. Combined with the talents of production designer Dennis Gassner and cinematographer Roger Deakins, along with the guidance of Ridley Scott, the world of Blade Runner 2049 is a stark, yet beautiful vision of a future of immense scale. Buildings rise above the clouds, and signs of animated virtual reality dance throughout the densely populated streets. This landscape becomes totally immersive in a format like IMAX. You’re pulled into this future, and find yourself marvelling at its vast proportions and epic size.
Blade Runner 2049 is far and away cinematographer Roger Deakins greatest achievement. This revered camera artist paints an astonishing cinematic vision with his use of lighting and dynamic camera work. Deakins’ eye gives the film both scale and intimacy and balances the slow burn effect of the original film, along with the quick tempo that younger audiences have come to expect from today’s cinema. I particularly liked his approach to capturing the fortified space of the Tyrell Corporation, and how his use of his camera took you for a ride in Officer K’s spinner. His approach to capturing this film is immersive and groundbreaking, and I have my fingers crossed that he will be awarded the praise of the Academy for his work.
Married with Deakin’s gorgeous cinematography are the sounds of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. The use of music is transportative, and the score of Zimmer and Wallfisch pulls you into this futuristic landscape. It moves from melodic and peaceful to screechingly loud and furious as the danger builds. Matched with intense sound editing. the music provides the emotional core of the film and extends the actors performances up on screen.
While I can’t go into too much detail on the cast of Blade Runner 2049 without falling into spoiler territory, I can say that they are all working at 100% here. Ryan Gosling brings a chiselled and intense performance as Officer K, a full-on blade runner whose curiosity leads him to a very dark place that could have world levelling ramifications. Harrison Ford again returns as the cynical and now aged Deckard, whose choices have left him as a haunted figure of the man he once was. Ana de Armas provides a sense of reassurance and compassion as K’s companion Joi, and Jared Leto makes a very creepy appearance as reclusive replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace, who carries a cruel and calculating god complex that makes him a very dangerous adversary.
While watching this film you absolutely believe that all of the cast are wholeheartedly invested in the outcome of this film. Each performer gives his or her all to their character and combined with Villeneuve’s layered storytelling and the film’s impressive production design, cinematography and score, all of this leads to a completely mesmerising piece of science fiction.
While I’ve only given you a snapshot of what Blade Runner 2049 is to reveal too much here would only serve to lessen the impact that this work of science fiction has on its audience. Blade Runner 2049 is a film that needs to be absorbed up on screen. Every piece of it has been rendered with a passion to tell a story that extends from the original, but which also asks new questions of its story and its characters. My advice is to watch it on IMAX if you can let it wash over you, for it is an incredible experience.
Image: Sony Pictures