Blade Runner 2049 - 2017
Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and Arrival) as a follow-up to the original, 1982’s Blade Runner from Ridley Scott. Original screenwriter Hampton Fancher returned to pen the story and help shape the script along with Michael Green (Logan). This movie stars Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Harrison Ford and Jared Leto. The story centers around K, played by Ryan Gosling, a young Blade Runner going down a rabbit hole as he is trying to unravel the mystery he is investigating.
So, if you loved the original, you will love this one. If you liked the original, you will like this one. If you didn’t care for the original, I honestly don’t know how you will react to this one. Let’s talk about it.
Denis Villeneuve continues to be THE director of my generation, at only 50 years-old I can only assume the best is yet to come. That sentence excites me as a film lover, having already watched masterpieces from him in Prisoners and Enemy. One of the things I love most about Villeneuve is his emphasis in showing and not telling. For the most part, he trusts his audience to connect the dots on their own, so when the payoff comes along it’s far more satisfying than if it was pre-chewed by the director. Sure, there are some scenes in here where they call back to a previous line of dialogue, but it was so rare in this movie (and his previous ones) that it didn’t bother me that much.
The Blade Runner franchise couldn’t have picked a better director, as Villeneuve made a film (from beginning to end) and not a jump off point for future sequels. You can argue that you don’t need to watch the original to understand this sequel, it stands on its own.
How about we talk about Roger Deakins, the closest thing we have too a rock star in the cinematography world. Deakins is the eye behind beautiful movies such has The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall and Sicario, just to name a few. Honestly, look him up and you will probably find one of your favorite movies among his 77 credits on IMDB. This movie is elevated to ungodly visual elegance thanks to Deakins’ and Villeneuve’s vison of what the world Scott created would look like thirty years later. There are so many shots in this movie for me to choose from to say it blew me away. You don’t even need to watch the movie to understand the beauty they were able to capture on film, just watch the trailer. He played with colors, lighting, angles and environments to create works of visual art. If he doesn’t win an Oscar this year, the Oscars are a sham.
With big names behind and in front the lens, they needed a big name to capture the emotion and the weight of this film in the music department. In comes Hans Zimmer and composer Benjamin Wallfisch to bring one of the most unique scores for a “blockbuster” in recent memory. They captured perfectly Gosling’s internal struggle, the sounds and noise of the city and they perfectly complimented Deakin’s visuals to help them land even harder. The Oscars next year will be interesting to see if Blade Runner Hans will beat out Dunkirk Hans. My money is on Hans.
This will be the third time I mention Oscars, but this movie will clean-up all the production related awards. Production Design by Dennis Gassner, Costume Design by Renee April (even the extras had costumes I envied), Film Editing by Joe Walker, Sound Editing by Mark A. Mangini and Sound Mixing by Ron Bartlett and Doug Hemphill. They all deserve to be called out by name as every single element in this film adds up to and incredible final product.
Denis Villeneuve has always brought out incredible performances from all his previous stars (see Hugh Jackman in Prisoners and Benicio Del Toro in Sicario for examples) and Blade Runner 2049 is no exception. Ryan Gosling shines as the lead and Harrison Ford gave one of his best performances in a long time. Robin Wright and Dave Bautista are wonderful in their small roles. But the stand outs, for me, are Sylvia Hoeks as Luv and Ana de Armas as Joi. Both came out of nowhere and gave visceral performances on different spectrums, creating a tonal balance for the audience. There isn’t a single weak link in this… well, Jared Leto is in this movie, and he plays Jared Leto. Outside of that, everybody shines within this world.
As you can see from everything I have said up to now, with the talents involved in this movie, it should add up to a perfect movie. It doesn’t. That’s fine, not every movie has to be perfect. They rarely are. Blade Runner 2049 is a great movie, honestly it is, yet I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it. The pacing at times can feel heavy, the runtime is a little indulgent (2h 43m) and the story is somewhat weak. I loved the themes it touched upon, expanding the more intriguing elements from the original while tackling new ones, but there is something that just didn’t click with me as an audience member. When the credits rolled I just thought to myself… Ok, that was good.
It deserves a second viewing, and I may lean more on the “I loved it side” after it, but for now I fully recommend this movie but with a fair warning that you should lower your expectations a bit before walking in. Denis, Roger and Hans (yeah, we are on first name terms) being in a project together is why I love movies.
Blade Runner 2049 is currently playing in theaters. Support it in theaters. It’s a bold arthouse blockbuster and we deserve more movies of this vein from a Hollywood that is solely focused on shared universes that don’t work.
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