Blade Runner 2049
Reviewed by Eddie Daou
“I had your job once. I was good at it.”
Decades-later reboots of classic 80s movies are a tricky thing to tackle. Most of the time, you end up with awful embarrassments such as INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. If you’re lucky, you get pleasing middlebrow throwbacks such as STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get masterpieces that surpass the greatness of the originals such as MAD MAX: FURY ROAD once in a very long while. And BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of those masterpieces.
“$200 million dollar sequel to a 30-year old cult sci-fi classic that bombed upon its original release” doesn’t exactly scream “moneymaker”, or “crowd-pleaser” at all. But BLADE RUNNER 2049 deserves every bit of praise critics are throwing at it, and certainly many more moviegoers than it currently has. It’s a big, bombastic science fiction film with almost no action. It’s completely enveloped in its central mystery and world-building. It’s such a breath of fresh air to be getting a film like this, one that isn’t trying to run from one action setpiece to the next, but one following its plot through every single small detail.
And you’d expect a movie that thorough to be a long one, too. Coming in at a whopping 2 hours and 43 minutes, 2049 makes one thing clear: it’s not the kind of fast-paced sci-fi we’re used to seeing these days. Its pace is far more similar to films like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the original BLADE RUNNER than most of today’s films. Making a film this detailed and “quiet” is a ginormous risk, especially in alienating younger audiences. Making a movie this slow is a massive roll-of-the-die. However, it’s one that totally pays off. The film is able to show every single layer of both its story and the world around it. The entertainment isn’t coming from spectacle, it’s coming from the story, and that’s a true marker of an all-time great sci-fi film.
Director Denis Villeneuve’s other films usually aren’t fully formed in terms of story and character. But with the releases of ARRIVAL and BLADE RUNNER 2049 within less than a year of each other, he has finally found his home in the hall of science fiction director history. Making just one of these films would be huge, but releasing both within a short amount of time is astounding.
And lead performers Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford put in fantastic work here too. Gosling gives one of the best performances of his career, and is yet again able to convey so much depth with his performance. But the real scene stealer is Harrison Ford, returning as his role of Deckard from the original BLADE RUNNER. Ford gives what might be the most vulnerable performance of his career, and easily the best one of his later years in acting.
Also: one of the things that makes BLADE RUNNER 2049 so appealing is how detached it is from the original. It isn’t endlessly cribbing moments from the first film, but instead bringing in a completely new cast of characters (save for Deckard) and a whole new story. The first film isn’t essential viewing for 2049. It’s more of a piece that compliments the film, but not one that it totally relies on for complete understanding.
Hans Zimmers’ score for the film creates an atmospheric soundscape that enhances the films’ world. It drops the 80s’ synth score of the first and goes for a more experimental work of creating tension, similar to Zimmers’ score for DUNKIRK. He doesn’t pull any songs off of the original film until a pivotal scene at the end of 2049. It’s a moment that immediately becomes twice as powerful, with a familiar tune ringing to bring out emotion even harder. If the entire score was just endless replays of the original, then that moment wouldn’t have any impact. But the restraint on relying on nostalgia makes moments like those even better.
But the most incredible part of 2049, the one that catapults this into the “classic” status, is the cinematography. Director of Photography Roger Deakins makes some of the most jaw-droppinglybeautiful shots that I have ever seen in a film - EVER. 2049 is seriously one of the most visually astounding films ever made. Even if you don’t like the film, the fact that this film’s visual language is absolutely stunning and perfect in every way cannot be denied.
All in all, make it your mission to see BLADE RUNNER 2049 in theaters. A film this beautiful deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible, and it definitely deserves many more eyes to be seeing it. It’s a truly moving and beautiful film. And it’s definitely a must-see film for any fans of the original, or just fans of cinematography in general. It’s not only one of the best films of 2017, but one of the best science fiction films of the 2000s, and has some of the best cinematography in film history.