UK Release Date: 5th October 2017
Runtime: 163 minutes
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis
Synopsis: Decades after Deckard fled the city, a cop doing the same job is forced to track him down while trying to solve a mystery related to the very nature of replicants.
Although it’s now considered a stone cold classic, there wasn’t much love for Blade Runner when it arrived in 1982. It was criticised as slow and overly focused on its special effects, but has since ascended into the pantheon of great science fiction. Based on that reputation, we now have Blade Runner 2049 making its way into cinemas, directed by Arrival and Sicario filmmaker Denis Villeneuve. It’s another ponderous, melancholy exploration of the nature of humanity and, this time around, there’s something missing. Fittingly for a film about androids masquerading as humans, there’s a void where the soul should be.
Los Angeles cop K (Ryan Gosling) is continuing the work started by ‘blade runners’ like Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has disappeared since he fled his job 30 years prior. K leads a solitary existence, with his only company being pleasure hologram Joi (Ana de Armas). After an encounter with a rogue replicant yields an unusual discovery, K finds himself given a special mission by superior Lt Joshi (Robin Wright). This mission leads him to Deckard and puts him on a collision course with replicant creator Wallace (Jared Leto).
Blade Runner 2049 is an admirable and ambitious movie, worthy of respect and analysis. Villeneuve has crafted a towering sci-fi epic, realised via kaleidoscopic visuals from the camera of cinematographer extraordinaire Roger Deakins. Like mother! just a few weeks ago, this is multiplex fare that credits the audience with the same intelligence as the filmmaker and, for that, it deserves a tonne of credit. Unfortunately, the film’s ambition results in a swing and a miss.
At the centre of it all is Ryan Gosling as K. The star delivers a hangdog performance focused entirely around brooding silences. His character is a closed book, opening up only when it comes to his entirely synthetic relationship with Ana de Armas as bizarre girlfriend programme Joi – a relationship that comes across as a bargain basement Her redux. Gosling’s cold exterior is emblematic of a rather Nolan-esque issue with Villeneuve – a director who struggles to depict emotion. Blade Runner 2049 is a film with a central relationship that’s impossible to buy into, despite the ample screen time afforded to it.
It also doesn’t help that Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t have enough in the way of a plot to match its seemingly endless runtime. The mystery story is initially intriguing, but Villeneuve’s film only pays lip service to the weighty themes that made the original such an interesting movie. Instead, the film is a languid journey through a CGI futurescape that, while visually impressive, lacks the lived-in physicality of the cutting edge imagery from the Ridley Scott original, which still holds up even today. This is a movie that feels old-fashioned in its pacing and lacks the emotional hook to justify its patient, methodical approach to storytelling.
There is, however, an X-factor to the movie in the shape of original star Harrison Ford. Villeneuve withholds Deckard for more than an hour of the film, despite his prominence in the marketing. When he finally does get the chance to interact with Gosling, there’s an undeniable spark to these scenes, which feel genuinely important and interesting in a way that nothing else in the movie does. This is a rare example of a committed and engaging Ford performance. Unfortunately, it’s from this point that the patient build-up and methodical pacing falls by the wayside.
Blade Runner 2049 becomes an utter mess as it moves into its final act. Crucial plot threads, including Jared Leto’s poorly-written business megalomaniac and a replicant rights movement, are tossed aside whenever Villeneuve can’t find room for them and the result is a movie that is almost three hours long and still feels unfinished – with the gaps plugged by deafening blasts of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s grating score. Villeneuve is suddenly in a hurry to get to the damp anti-climax of his ending and any suggestions of thematic depth just fade away as they are forgotten – like tears, in rain.
Pop or Poop?
It has wowed critics, but Blade Runner 2049 is something of a bloated disappointment. Despite undeniable craft, Villeneuve’s film lacks the thematic depth of the original and suffers from an overly ambiguous central performance by Ryan Gosling. Harrison Ford is impressive in his brief return as Deckard, but this film only scratches the surface of the possibilities presented by its intriguing narrative conceit.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.