By Yanit Mehta
After the initial release of “Blade Runner” in 1982 (and several re-releases including the ever-popular and spellbinding director’s cut from 1992), Denis Villeneuve is finally taking audiences back to the intricately crafted and immensely captivating world of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.” Set 30 years after the first “Blade Runner,” “Blade Runner 2049” isn’t just a cash milling reboot that furthers an already fascinating story; in fact, it’s a film that is a masterpiece in itself.
We delve deeper into a dark, gritty and fictional, but concerningly plausible, Los Angeles. While Officer K, a blade runner played by Ryan Gosling, is working on a case, he stumbles upon some clues that lead to a situation a lot more serious than he bargained for. These clues lead to his paths crossing with Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, who, 30 years later, is the same grumpy, deadbeat and scarred character audiences loved from the first film. Deckard and K then go on a journey, constantly avoiding obstacles that the LAPD and Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace throw their way. Gosling and Ford also play off of each other particularly well, creating a dynamic that is fun and engrossing to watch as we follow them through their investigations.
Even though this is a star-studded cast with big billboard-friendly names all around, nobody overstays their welcome. Every cast member is given a part to play and their notoriety in the real world had no effect on the role they play in the film.
However, at the end of the day, this isn’t an exciting space opera like Star Wars. It’s a slow, steeping film with pacing that is unlike any films we see in today’s saturated box office. The details unfold slowly just like they would in an actual investigation. With a runtime of two hours and 43 minutes, “Blade Runner 2049” is excruciating to get through — but in the best way possible. The remorseless plot puts our characters in exceptional situations that are almost painful to watch. The masterful direction of Villeneuve, a compelling score by big names like Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch and just purely beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins manage to keep the film gripping throughout its distinctive three-hour runtime. The coalition of the brilliant team working on the film perfectly recaptures the neo-noir hard science fiction vibe that the first film established (but this time, the flat-screens are replaced with holograms). The movie stuns the audience with an endless stream of tremendous landscapes and vivid, colorful visuals.
“Blade Runner 2049” interprets a future that seems so distant but so eerily close to our own, generating a feeling in the film that can never be replicated again. One of the biggest staples of great science fiction is answering certain questions about our world today but also posing questions that make us contemplate the present and also the future we are creating, and this film is chock-full of these. The film manages to include a subtle commentary on today’s sociopolitical world with enthralling visual storytelling that Villeneuve and his team have already mastered with films like “Arrival.” Still, “Blade Runner” never turns into a patronizing political piece.
The film sticks to its sophisticated narrative and thrives with its almost arthouse vibe. Coupled with brilliant performances from Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas and Jared Leto (who manages to be surprisingly menacing in his brief time on screen), what comes to fruition is a complex, contemplative science fiction epic that will be referenced and remembered for the years to come.