Magazine article Variety

Blade Runner 2049

Magazine article Variety

Blade Runner 2049

Article excerpt

Blade Runner 2049

FILM REVIEW

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright

The world as we know it has nearly caught up to the one Ridley Scott imagined when he directed the 2019-set "Blade Runner," and yet, for all the influence the dystopian cult favorite has had on other sci-fi movies, Scott's vision of Los Angeles still looks as mind-blowingly futuristic now as it did in 1982. That may well explain why its sequel, the Denis Villeneuve-directed "Blade Runner 2049," doesn't feel the need to reinvent the world in which it takes place, but instead is free to delve deep into the existential concerns suggested by the earlier film, as screenwriters Hampton Fancher (who also co-wrote the original) and Michael Green raise evocative questions about human-android relations and the nuances that will one day be used to tell them apart.

Sure as it is to delight "Blade Runner" fans, this stunningly elegant follow-up doesn't depend on having seen the original. In both tone and style, the new film owes more to slow-cinema maestro Andrei Tarkovsky than it does to Scott's revolutionary cyberpunk sensibility. At 2 hours and 44 minutes, "Blade Runner 2049" clocks in at three minutes longer than the austere Russian auteur's "Stalker." But Villeneuve earns every second of that running time, delivering a visually breathtaking, long-fuse action movie whose unconventional thrills could be described as many things - from tantalizing to tedious - but never "artificially intelligent."

Together with DP Roger Deakins (in the most spectacular of their three collaborations) and a gifted team of design artists (led by "Spectre" production -> «- designer Dennis Gassner), Villeneuve offers a bracing vision of where humankind is headed, iconically lit in amber, neon hues and stark fluorescent white. Those are not necessarily the colors one associates with film noir, but then, "Blade Runner 2049" could hardly be considered a conventional example of the style, using its obligatory blaster-pistol shootouts and gymnastic hand-to-hand combat (nods to the original) to lend excitement to its more profound philosophical agenda.

Just as Villeneuve did with his previous feature, 2016's "Arrival," elevating its pulp alien-invasion premise via a piercingly emotional core, in "Blade Runner 2049," he subverts the genre in favor of a rich inquiry into the nature of the soul itself.

Coming from an art cinema background, Villeneuve doesn't deal in the conventional idea of suspense, where a difficult goal must be achieved on an imminent deadline; rather, he operates via a kind of dramatic suspension, in which he challenges attention-deficit audiences to adapt to his unnaturally attenuated pace. Certainly, if anything has changed in the almost three decades since "Blade Runner," it's the speed at which modern people are expected to process things, and yet, in "Blade Runner 2049," the simplest actions take an impossibly long time.

As the film opens, the world hasn't advanced that much in the 30 years since we last saw Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter tasked with "retiring" renegade android slaves - or "skin jobs" - who realized in that film's final scene that he might be one too (depending on whom you believe, and which version you watch). …

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