Blade Runner 2049 Review
Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult science fiction classic, directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, and Ana de Armas. Set thirty years after the original Blade Runner, 2049 follows Agent “K” (Gosling), a replicant-hunting Blade Runner, as he investigates the case of a missing replicant. K is joined by his domestic partner hologram, Joi (de Armas) later on in the investigation, which eventually leads him to Rick Deckard (Ford). K faces opposition from the Wallace Corporation’s CEO, Niander Wallace (Leto), and his replicant servant Luv (Hoek), who are also looking for Deckard.
At this point, as far as I am concerned, Denis Villeneuve is the name at the bottom of a blank check. I have loved every one of his films that I have seen, and he has become one of my favorite directors currently working in the business. Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival: these are all masterfully directed films, and Blade Runner 2049 is no exception. The performances that Villeneuve is able to pull out of his actors are stunning, and his framing and composition are top-notch. Villeneuve is on top of his game right now, and I personally can not wait to see his next project.
Speaking of the performances, Gosling gives one of his better performances as the replicant Blade Runner K. He imbues the character with this almost robotic stoicism at first, a facade that quickly falls away when we meet his domestic partner Joi, played by de Armas. Gosling and de Armas have remarkable chemistry, the screen crackling to life whenever they share it. They also have one of the best scenes of the film, an awe-inspiring meeting on a rooftop, a romantic moment cut short by a voicemail from K’s boss, LAPD’s Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright). Sylvia Hoek’s Luv serves as the primary antagonist of the film, and plays the replicant with a palpable sense of menace. Harrison Ford’s Deckard is not in the film for very long, but this is easily one of Ford’s best performances in years. He plays Deckard with a depth and subtlety that the character lacked in Blade Runner. The one performance in this film that I felt was lackluster was Jared Leto’s as the blind, replicant-building Wallace. While Wallace is definitely unsettling and eerie, nearly all of his dialogue is thematic. He rambles on about “angels” and how replicants are the next “evolutionary step” of mankind. This bloviating is utterly pointless, as the film addresses all of these thematic concerns through its visuals.
The first thing about this film that is going to stand out to audiences is the visual fidelity on display. Everything in this film is hauntingly beautiful, from the neon- and shadow-cloaked streets of Los Angeles, to the stark and honeycomb-like interiors of the Wallace Corporation, to the orange-infused haze of Las Vegas. Every single frame of this film is stunningly beautiful, and that’s thanks in large part to the director of photography, Roger Deakins. Deakins is one of the best cinematographers working now, and this film is easily one of his most visually opulent.
The final element of the film I wanted to touch upon was the score, as Vangelis’ score in the original Blade Runner was one of the best elements of that film. The score for 2049, put together by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, fits this film like a rubber glove. The eerie, droning synths and ambient tones really intensify Deakins’ visuals and add to the dreary atmosphere of the film.
While my feelings toward the film are mostly positive, there are a few things that I could see hampering one’s enjoyment of the film. Namely, the pacing is much like that of Blade Runner: slow, methodical, and brooding. This is definitely a slow-burn , and I can see that turning some people off. Additionally, the few action scenes that are in this film felt a bit wooden to me. They were still enjoyable, but they are definitely not the highlight of the film.
Overall, I found this film to be a worthy sequel to the original Blade Runner. The few issues I had were not enough to derail my enjoyment of the film, and the thematic material is just as compelling as that of Scott’s 1982 masterpiece. Definitely check this one out; it will be a cinematic experience you will not soon forget.