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Movie Review: 'Blade Runner 2049'

by Sean Patrick 5 years ago in review
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Denis Villeneuve delivers another masterpiece.

“Sometimes, to love someone, you have to be a stranger.”

Out of context, the above line of dialogue from Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t seem so profound. But when it lands in the context of the story being told by director Denis Villeneuve, the line plays as remarkably poignant. I won’t spoil the context in this review. Indeed, I will venture to avoid any spoilers whatsoever. What I can tell you about Blade Runner 2049 is that it has all of the atmosphere of cool that the 1982, Ridley Scott-helmed original had but with even better characters and deeper meanings, and yes, genuinely poignant moments.

K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner in Los Angeles circa 2049, 30 years after the time of the original movie. K is tracking down a new generation of Replicants and on his latest job, retiring a hulking replicant played by Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista, K stumbles into a long-running conspiracy with implications that could rock the foundations of society as he knows it. The secret involves a body and you will get no more than that from me.

Blade Runner 2049 is rich with questions that the film takes its time to reveal the answers to—not that director Villeneuve is screwing around and playing keep away with the truth. Rather, the story of Blade Runner 2049 is a classic noir mystery ala the original Blade Runner and that kind of story requires patience. The big difference between the new Blade Runner and the original is that this time the questions are bigger and more destructive when answered. There is a remarkable power in steadily unraveling each layer of Blade Runner 2049 and while some might have a hard time with the film’s leisurely pace, I found it riveting.

The key to Blade Runner 2049 is cinematographer Roger Deakins and the way he and Denis Villeneuve have expanded upon the smoky, grimy, and constantly wet streets of Los Angeles of 2049. Noir is best made in the dark with light dancing in puddles and Blade Runner 2049 evokes the old masters of noir while still allowing the movie to look sleek and modern. The noir comes from the atmosphere, as much as the look and the languid pace of the film is matched by Deakins’ visual style which posits a world encased in fog and doused in implacable rain.

Even a trip to the desert is fraught with smoggy gray that blocks out what should be a bright, unyielding sun. The lighting of the desert is remarkably logical and expands on the original movie’s thoughts on the future of the environment, a bleak, ever-worsening landscape of soot and sogginess. It’s dreary and yet a marvel to look at. The look of Blade Runner 2049 is easily as evocative and eye-catching as the original, a film that was tragically overlooked when it came to awarding the Oscar for Cinematography back in 1982. Here’s hoping the sequel doesn’t get the same mistreatment.

Ryan Gosling is an exceptional choice to play K. Reserved, dispassionate, and professional, Gosling’s K is a counter to Ford’s grittier and more visceral Deckard. K keeps us at a distance as he reveals himself just as slowly to us as the film reveals the secrets of its universe. Ford, meanwhile, slips comfortably back into the role of Deckard. Aged and weary, sad and lonely, Deckard’s fate is not much to be discovered but he’s nevertheless important to the film’s biggest secrets.

You’re probably curious about Jared Leto’s role in Blade Runner 2049. Leto has become a lightning rod among fans of various franchises and when people heard he was part of the Blade Runner 2049 cast, rumors about his character became the biggest complaint among fans. I can tell you that I didn’t have any problem with Leto’s character, who remains enigmatic and odd throughout the film. He’s important in setting up the significant questions the movie has about what makes us human, but his part in the overall story is something you should discover for yourself.

Blade Runner 2049 has big questions about what makes someone human. Is it your memories? Your experiences? Your physical being? What makes you, you? The film has few answers but the point of it all is to ask the big questions and get people talking and pondering. The biggest success of Blade Runner 2049, aside from being a visual masterpiece, is inviting audiences to consider their own humanity and what defines them in the world. Not many movies swing for that kind of existential fence.

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About the author

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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