To call Blade Runner 2049 an eventual sci-fi cult classic is an understatement. Critically-acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins have crafted a masterpiece that leaps off from the screen and questions what quality cinema should be. Blade Runner 2049 is a beautiful film visually, narratively, and symbolically.
A follow-up to the 1982 Ridley Scott masterpiece, Blade Runner 2049 happens thirty years after the events of its predecessor. A new Blade Runner, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), hunts for old Replicant models who escaped from the Tyrell Corporation three decades past. A world-breaking case leads his investigations to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an aging former Blade Runner who disappeared all those years ago.
Because of how interlinked its individual cells are—narrative, cinematography, soundtrack—it’s difficult to discuss any one aspect of the film without running into spoilers eventually. Blade Runner 2049 is a film that gets its audience talking—what’s it about, did that really happen. The discussion will resonate years after this film hits theaters. Out of respect for Villeneuve’s vision, I won’t reveal any plot points whatsoever, but that means that I might have to sacrifice analysis for brevity in some parts.
The film runs for almost three hours. It’s an epic story that, even then, hardly feels like it’s enough time to explore its dark, gritty dystopia. Like a magician who never reveals all his card, 2049 rides that sweet spot between succinct and tiring. There was never a moment when I felt the need to check my watch.
At times, some scenes seem like they overstay their welcome, but the film will suffer had those scenes been cut. Blade Runner 2049 is like a painting. You can’t have a foreground without a background. Each brushstroke matters, even if you don’t look at them as you do the bigger picture.
Villeneuve’s and Deakins’ vision of post neo-noir Los Angeles captivates. Far from the original film’s bright neon and claustrophobic bustle, 2049 takes us to a world rampaged by technology and over-expansion. The iconic orange and blue light of yore shine occasionally but only as if through blinding mist. 1982’s crowded streets bow down to 2017’s overpacked apartments that resemble glass prisons more than abodes.
Thematically, Blade Runner 2049 is less preoccupied with whether its characters are Replicants or not. Fans of the first film will remember the long-standing debate over Deckard’s humanity. Objective reality is irrelevant in 2049. Rather, Villeneuve wants to tell a story on what it takes to be human. It’s a story that would make sci-fi maestros proud.
This is played absurdly well by the different actors and actresses in the film. Gosling draws inspiration from his previous performance in Drive. Ford, likewise, delivers a career-worthy outing as the aged Deckard. Ana de Armas, playing K’s significant other Joi, continues to turn heads with her escalating Hollywood roles.
Blade Runner 2049 is no Avengers or Justice League. Like most movies in Hollywood, it’s not for everyone. But instead of a cautionary message, this serves as a challenge to both moviegoers and quality cinema as a whole. It’s a masterpiece worthy of its legacy.