Denis Villeneuve steps into Ridley Scott’s shoes for Blade Runner 2049, delivering a visual feast over a compelling detective tale; with a lot of big, contemplative sci-fi ideas for you to take on.
Picking up thirty years after the original film, replicants are legal again after a new creator, Wallace, has made them safer and more obedient. Blade Runner’s still exist, taking out the older model replicants still running around, with the newer models openly being assigned to the task. When K uncovers some suspicious findings at his latest retirement assignment, he steps into a possible conspiracy that he is asked to investigate by his acting Lieutenant.
I don’t want to spoil the film any further, so the plot details will stop there, but the film remains engaging throughout its lengthy runtime mostly because of its exploration of big sci-fi ideas. AI love, robot emotions, synthetic birth and big & beautiful world building fill every moment of this film when the plot isn’t unfolding, at a pacing that very much will distraught many viewers; I imagine. Deliberate pacing didn’t affect my enjoyment of the film one bit and the room to breathe really lets us settle into the film and ponder the ideas it’s putting out there. It also lets you take in the film’s solid performances across the board. Yes, the performances can come across a bit robotic, but, isn’t that sort of the point? It’s quite intentional if you ask me.
Gosling in particular does a great job of coming off as robotic, with a touch of emotion lying just under the surface. Robin Wright is great as the tough as nails police chief, but I wish we got to see her interact with more people than just Gosling. Jared Leto’s Wallace is appropriately weird and arrogant, unnerving in the couple of scenes he gets. Ana de Armas is the standout of Blade Runner 2049 as Joi, and her plot line might be the best thread of the film. Her and Gosling have a great chemistry, I just wish her arc’s final beat had a little more unf. Sylvia Hoeks is also quite good as the film’s antagonist in the field, delivering most of the film’s ass kicking replicant action as Luv. Mackenzie Davis is also quite memorable as a prostitute with deeper intentions, and helps successfully sell one of the most original love making sequences I’ve seen put in a movie. Carla Juri also knocks her one scene out of the park, as this film is full of people coming in and just killing it for a scene or two. Lastly, Harrison Ford falls right back into the role of Deckard, delivering a bit of charm and thirty years of angst to the part. He gets one big scene against Leto that works particularly well and I wish we got more of him. Oh, and Dave Bautista is so good in the opening scene!
Villeneuve deserves special mention as well for creating such a visual masterpiece, with the technical achievements on this film being worth the price of admission alone. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is as beautiful as we’ve come to expect from the master and will leave you spellbound with numerous shots in the film. Villeneuve and his writing team also deserve a lot of credit for expanding the world of Blade Runner and not simply repeating it. Most of the film’s callbacks are saved for the final third and make narrative sense to the story this film is telling. When Deckard shows up, the film does feel a bit sidetracked from Gosling’s story, which I was pretty well invested in, but I think plays better in hindsight once you realize the goal of the movie. Who knew Inherent Vice and Her would be two of the biggest touchstones of influence on this movie?
Blade Runner 2049 enraptured me for it’s nearly three hour runtime. It is full of interesting ideas to ponder, beautiful scenery to get lost in and a cast that nails the tones of their characters. The pacing of the film will be a hurdle for some/many I imagine, but if you want a big, gorgeous sci-fi film to mull over, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel is for you.