by Paislee House, Film Critic
Denis Villeneuve has done it again. Last year, the director delivered one of the best science fiction films of the 21st century with “Arrival.” This year, Villeneuve presents us with a sequel to the beloved science fiction classic “Blade Runner.” Villeneuve’s version is gorgeous, political and smart. “Blade Runner 2049” is an intensely beautiful rendering of Ridley Scott’s prototype.
The most jaw-dropping, utterly astounding aspect of “2049” is the way it looks. Roger Deakins is a well-known name in film circles. Known best for his work with the Coen brothers, Deakins has worked as Director of Photography on many iconic films like “Shawshank Redemption,” “No Country for Old Men” and “The Big Lebowski.” Beginning in 2013 with “Prisoners,” Deakins formed a working relationship with director Denis Villeneuve. The two have created three breathtaking films and “Blade Runner 2049” truly takes the cake for most awe-inspiring visuals.
The movie is a visual feast filled with plenty of long shots of vast landscapes from the overcrowded, bustling, sprawled future Los Angeles to the radiation ruined Midwestern desert. These are coupled with beautifully shot, intense close-ups of the various characters whose seriousness expresses mostly pain and despair.
Both “Blade Runner” films come from the Philp K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” This source material is what makes the movies such great science fiction. The subdued nature of the story and the parallels with the present are fascinating and allow audiences to become engaged without being bombarded by explosions or space battles. The absence of such vapid action permits deeper story, which “Blade Runner 2049” also knocks out of the park.
Hampton Fancher and Michael Green created an engrossing sequel that can function on its own as well. A major theme in “Blade Runner” is that of humans as masters who have created an android version of themselves to serve as cheap/slave labor, AKA humans are god who created replicants in their image. At the core of “Blade Runner 2049” is the main character’s struggle with who he is and what it means to be “human.” It boils down to the belief in something greater than oneself in an effort to obtain some sort of equality or enlightenment.
Even the performances in “2049” are great. Ryan Gosling doesn’t always stand out to me as especially good, but as a replicant named K he stands out to me as awesome. Whether its talent or something else that allows Gosling to portray a replicant gradually realizing what it means to be human and have conscience, he’s wonderful to watch, as is his holographic wife, Joi, played by Ana de Armas. Armas gives the most sympathetic, convincing performance even though one could argue she plays the least human role.
Then there’s the heartbreaking character Luv played by Sylvia Hoeks. Hoeks portrayal of the seemingly perfect assistant of Niander Wallace was devastating. When she shed tears, I also wanted to cry because she seemed so attuned to her character. Hoeks can definitely consider Luv her breakout role because I’m sure we’ll be seeing her again soon.
Among all of the wonderful performances, including Robin Wright-Penn being a badass for the second time in 2017, I was a little let down by Harrison Ford’s Deckard. His moment in the movie was a bit anticlimactic albeit necessary. Regardless, I was hoping for a little more at that point in the film but was left disappointed. My disappointment was only temporary, however, because the movie picked itself right back up.
“Blade Runner 2049” is a nearly perfect film. It looks and sounds amazing, is filled with mostly great performances and has a story that will leave you thinking as you exit. Revel in your time.