Before I get into the meat of this review, I think it’s important for me to say that I’m not the biggest fan of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). I’ve seen the final cut multiple times, and while I enjoy the visual effects and the world, I never feel fully satisfied with the narrative and the characters. This doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the significant role Blade Runner has played in the history of cinema, or the countless filmmakers that were inspired by the film, but when it comes to storytelling, I find Blade Runner to be an extremely hollow film.
With Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve has cemented himself as one of the greatest filmmakers working in Hollywood. The director has masterfully taken what Ridley Scott introduced in 1982, and improved in almost every way. From a storytelling perspective, Villeneuve has created a captivating mystery, which both pays homage to the original while being something entirely fresh and original.
For a film review, I would usually post minor plot details to further examine the narrative and the flow of the movie, but looking at Blade Runner 2049 and the story that unfolds, I believe it would hinder the viewing experience if I mentioned even the smallest of details.
Blade Runner 2049 isn’t an exceptionally exciting or action-packed film. Many filmmakers would have betrayed the concept and created a summer blockbuster, but thankfully, Villeneuve was able to construct a mystery driven detective story, which has a very tight focus on character. This means that when the massive action sequences happen, we care about the characters and the story on a much deeper level. Blade Runner 2049 is a rare example of a sequel that doesn’t take the concept and make everything bigger but instead stays true to the characters and the story, while naturally expanding the world.
On a visual level, Blade Runner 2049 is everything fans of the original would expect to see. The film may be set thirty years after the events of Blade Runner, but it’s immediately clear that this is the same dirty, unsettling, yet strangely beautiful world that Ridley Scott first introduced in 1982. Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins delivers some the best work of his career, mastering the use of light to create some of the most beautiful and haunting shots in recent memory. This is one of the rare films that is worth the extra cost for an IMAX ticket. When discussing a film like Blade Runner 2049, you also have to appreciate the use of special effects. Almost every frame is filled with some of the most beautifully crafted effects, and much like the original, Blade Runner 2049 pushes forward the use of technology in a truly breathtaking and jaw-dropping manner.
Ryan Gosling might not have been the obvious choice to lead a Blade Runner sequel, but looking at the finished product, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this character. Much like his performance in Drive (2011), Gosling is charismatic, charming, and at times, creepily stoic. Ryan Gosling should be considered as one of the most diverse and entertaining actors in Hollywood. As for Harrison Ford, if you’re expecting a half-assed attempt to bring back one of his classic characters and cash a check, that’s not what you get in Blade Runner 2049. Returning as Rick Deckard, Ford delivers possibly the best performance of his career, and bring Deckard back in an extremely natural and exciting way.
While faults are scarce and hard to find, Blade Runner 2049 isn’t the perfect movie. Jared Leto has little more than a cameo as Niander Wallace, in a role which (if more developed) could have been incredibly exciting and reveal a lot about the world. It’s also worth noting that while the film is never boring, the runtime (almost 3-hours) does become increasingly evident in the third act.
Blade Runner 2049 is not only a visual masterpiece. The unquestionably beautiful direction leads us into one of the most captivating and immersive stories modern cinema has to offer. Like every film before it, Blade Runner 2049 has its flaws, but thanks to great performances and some truly breathtaking cinematography, Blade Runner 2049 will undoubtedly become an instant classic and inspire an entirely new generation of filmmakers.
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