LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years...
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
. Starring: Ryan Gosling
, Dave Bautista
, Robin Wright
, Mark Arnold
, Vilma Szécsi
, Ana de Armas
, Wood Harris
, David Dastmalchian
, Tómas Lemarquis
, Sylvia Hoeks
, Edward James Olmos
, Jared Leto
, Sallie Harmsen
. Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
, Hans Zimmer
To me there are certain films that should be spared the modern obsession for reboots and sequels to everything that has ever been made. Some films should be left to stand alone, without being expanded upon in a money- making exercise or an attempt to revisit past glories. Some films come together so well that it would be a great crying shame to spoil their memory and their essence by lazily ballsing up the perfect little universe they created. Such, I imagined, would be the case with any sequel to Blade Runner. Ridley Scott adapted Philip K Dick's story into such an atmospheric piece which came together so beautifully in the world created for the screen. It looked spectacular, had a wonderfully appropriate soundtrack, and was cast brilliantly with Harrison Ford's quiet aloof charm offset by Rutger Hauer's menace. I have often thought, right up until the point I entered the cinema in fact, that any attempt to add to this world would end in disaster.
From another perspective, I clung to the hope that with the original scriptwriter on board and under the direction of Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 would have half a chance. Throw in the enigmatic Ryan Gosling and I was really starting to hope that there would be enough talent on board to give this a chance. I dared not expect this to be the case, of course, and was prepared to endure the film in raging disappointment. The one plus side of that scenario would be that I could enjoy tearing it to shreds here.
To say 2049 is a slow burner would be a massive understatement. Right from the start, Villeneuve sets a tone for the film which I would describe as beautifully paced, although I'm sure others would use the word 'slow'. I absolutely loved the way nothing was rushed to be crammed down the audience throats. Plot and character development are moved along in a way that felt extremely natural. Villeneuve manages to wonderfully recreate Scott's world, bringing it up to date but not overdoing the use of new technologies. The soundtrack does a fantastic job of evoking Vangelis' original score without making it an updated copy, and this more than anything really does make you think that 2049 is an extension of the original film rather than a modern-day money making sequel.
The performances are also top notch. Gosling is well within his comfort zone as the vacant yet inwardly conflicted 'K', battling with what inner soul he may have, but this shouldn't detract from the quality of his performance. Jared Leto also puts in a masterfully creepy effort as the enigmatic and disturbed Niander Wallace, who has taken over the replicant business, taking it to another level. Leto is more than ably supported by Sylvia Hoeks in the guise of his right-hand woman Luv. Hoeks' performance as the replicant striving for perfection mesmerised me. Her combination of emotion (and lack thereof) with brilliant work with her physical mannerisms makes Luv a threatening presence and a great character.
It's no secret that Harrison Ford also reprises his role as Rick Deckard. I'm slightly conflicted in this area, to be honest. Ford always puts in a performance of quality, as he does here, but I am beginning to feel slightly sad about watching him attempt to recreate past characters. This isn't to take away from the talent he still has, but watching him return in recent years as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, I have felt that I was watching an old Harrison Ford rather than the characters themselves. To a lesser extent, such is the case here; however, he is able to slip back into Deckard with more success as he is not asked to perform much in the way of action, which he is no longer really capable of. His role is important in 2049, so it is the right decision to include him, but a small part of me wishes it could have been otherwise. This is probably too harsh, and I am sure many will disagree. Just a personal thing.
The main plot is not overly complicated, and there are small pointers laced throughout the film, some subtler than others. It is not really that original (a similar plot line runs through the more modern incarnation of Battlestar Galactica) but its simplicity is one of the things that makes 2049 work as well as it does. You don't need to over- complicate things, as there is plenty of substance in the characters themselves. Villeneuve also keeps up the intensity throughout in such a way that keeps you glued, waiting for what must be coming. A personal favourite is the scene in the hotel ballroom, which incorporates some lovely little touches in the sound effects department. You could also nearly watch 2049 as a standalone film, without no knowledge of the original, although clearly certain elements of it will make much more sense if you are acquainted with the background. Certain touches of nostalgia also help carry this along, which fit in nicely and aren't overdone.
Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a Blade Runner sequel working this well. Villeneuve recreates an atmosphere in 2049 that I was completely swept up in. One personal gripe is that I felt it was one scene too long. I didn't care much for the last twenty seconds and felt it should have ended just before the very last scene, but I may be in a tiny minority here.
I can't see how any fans of the original would be disappointed. A brilliant piece of filmmaking, and a wonderful surprise. As good as the original? Maybe not, but it certainly does it justice in a way that I wouldn't have thought possible.
Review by GrumpyDonkey from the Internet Movie Database.