Written by Aaron Radcliff:
Before this review can get started, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen the original Blade Runner.
Yes, it’s true, I haven’t seen one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made and I had the gall to go see the sequel and try and tell you how it compares to the original. Fear not, reader, I’m not here to compare, I’m here to analyze.
The first thing that needs to be addressed is whether you need to see the original or not. Thankfully, if you’re like me, you can go into this completely blind and understand everything. Yes, there are hints and references to the first film that prior knowledge can help expand upon, but this outing uses those things sparingly and expands enough upon them for an untouched mind like mine to easily understand.
The film focuses on Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a newer model replicant working as a Blade Runner for the LAPD, hunting down and “retiring” old rogue models. A discovery during one of his jobs leads to a development with replicants that could change the world and bring a new layer to the question of whether the replicants can be truly human. All the while, K struggles to understand his role in the world and must decipher if everything he knew was a truth or a lie all while being hunted by Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), the assistant and enforcer of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), the manufacturer of the replicants.
I’m not usually one to say that Ryan Gosling is perfect casting, but he truly makes this role work. Much like Michael Fassbender in Alien: Covenant, he brings the inhuman a layer of emotion and humanity through mere facial expression. We don’t need dialogue to know that K is in pain or is conflicted. Gosling shows it all through his eyes and facial movement. A mark of a great actor is to convey emotion without using their words, and Gosling exceeds in this.
The rest of the cast put on a fine performance given their screen time, but praise must be rightly given to Ana de Armas who plays Joi, K’s holographic “wife” who tries everything in her power to be as real and physical as possible to give K the companionship he so desperately needs.
The thing that truly brings this whole film together is the atmosphere. Director Denis Villeneuve showcases his ability to build atmosphere and tension through seemingly small or unnoticed things. He allows there to be no unneeded dialogue. Each word serves a purpose. Otherwise, he allows his cast to work off the surroundings to tell the story. In many cases, he allows long stretches of near silence to set the tone. In other instances, he allows the Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch score to say everything.
Also, in a career filled with Oscar nominations, the fact that Roger Deakins hasn’t won for Best Cinematography is a crime. But I feel that these coming awards could finally be different thanks to the absolutely stunning visuals on display here.
I found myself in a strange conundrum as the credits began to roll: Should I watch the original? While there are many out there who say I should, I’m not sure I agree. While it would be nice to have the complete story, I feel content with what I’ve seen from this film. I feel as though seeing the original might take away from my enjoyment of this one (conversely, it could also improve it).
I obviously can’t tell you if this compares to the original or if it’s a worthy successor. The minute-long silence in the theater as the credits rolled made finding an answer to that question even more difficult. But I can tell you this: Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic film. Is it perfect? No, but I don’t think anything is. But if there is such thing as a “perfect film,” Blade Runner 2049 comes pretty close among all the films released so far in 2017.
Score: 9 out of 10
Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures & Sony Pictures Releasing