The Director of Sicario and Arrival my favorite movie of last year, Denis Villeneuve has revisited the neo-noir sci-fi world of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the 1982 classic Blade Runner. The franchise is now the third Harrison Ford starring property in recent years to be revived after both Indiana Jones and Star Wars.
The movie does completely work as a standalone, you do not have to have seen the original but it does have plenty of nods and callbacks to the classic, which I’m sure fans of the franchise will recognize and be happy about. As with most but especially noir mystery films, the less you know going in the more you will enjoy the film so for your own sake avoid spoilers, that said I’ve done my best to keep this review spoiler free. Fair warning, this is a very long movie with a running time of 2 hours and 43 minutes so be ready to strap in for an enjoyable, but long haul.
More so than his previous works Villeneuve’s continuation is visually stunning, incredibly framed, and well shot with beautiful lighting and use of silhouettes. The vividly neon lit city of Los Angeles with its cold tones juxtapose the warm unnatural orange wash of Las Vegas for a memorable color contrast. 2049 is built on top of, and expands on the established well lived-in Blade Runner world which uses a retro/futuristic design aesthetic on top of advanced technology, additionally in the 30 year time jump between the movies corporations have developed new hologram artificial intelligence technology Joi (Ana de Armas) that plays a role in the film and has some creative and interesting effect shots.
Refreshingly the sequel stays focused on the main questions set in front of it in regards to a person, who are they, what is their relevance, and what is their origin. If you have seen the original I know it sounds similar to the ‘is this person a replicant’ debacle, but it isn’t I promise. Villeneuve doesn’t waste time rehashing questions that were central in the original or diverge to ask other less interesting ones, the film is upfront with who’s a replicant and who isn’t. Just in case your asking what is a replicant, they are physically enhanced bio engineered androids with implanted memories, the earlier models from the 1982 classic were difficult to distinguish from real people but that’s not the case this time.
The action scenes are few and far between but are crafted as carefully as the rest of the movie. The kills are remorseless, the guns sound powerful enough to blow a hole in someone, the knifes cut through people like butter, and the hits are brutal, these folks ain’t playing.
The movie could have benefited from imposing a stronger sense of urgency on both its story and characters at any one of several points if even to help trim the run time, oddly when time constraints are set you don’t feel a rise in tension that you would normally expect. This is mostly because of how cool and composed the characters stay which is fine at times, but shouldn’t always be the case because it negatively impacts whats at stake diminishing its importance, if its not important why do we care? If the characters don’t care, why should we? The example which is least a spoiler would be – when a reasonably short clock is set on K’s (Ryan Gosling) ensured safety, he goes home, sleeps with a prostitute, has a coffee, and talks with Joi about leaving and what to do next before even thinking about leaving without any visible concern for consequence.
Blade Runner 2049 for the most part does a good job of answering the questions it sets up and wants you to ask, outside of maybe one or two questions of ultimately little importance the film works fantastically and I would recommend it to anyone that can last the lengthy watch 8.5/10.
The sequel is currently receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews with a whopping 90% on rottentomatoes, the exact same score the original Blade Runner currently sits at.
Blade Runner 2049 is now showing in cinemas worldwide.