Note: No spoilers here.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners), this impressive 164-minute sequel to the original 1982 Ridley Scott directed film Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years later. With a stellar crew and cast, story was the only element left to provide a reason to continue the narrative that was a classic self-contained sci-fi epic in the first place.
Original Blade Runner co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher returns to write this screenplay with Michael Green (Logan, Alien:Covenant, TV’s Heroes) and the story. Original Blade Runner director Ridley Scott also returns to co-executive produce this film. Audiences do not have to see the first Blade Runner film to enjoy this immersive sequel, but veteran viewers will certainly enjoy a slightly more enhanced experience.
As in the original, the story is loosely adapted from Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? where the title refers to the term given to the law enforcement officers who “retire” replicants (a.k.a. synthetic humans), which are bioengineered by the powerful Wallace Corporation and were previously bioengineered by the Tyrell Corporation.
Filmmakers forgo the opening credits and immediately immerse audiences into the narrative that revives a long-kept secret. This viable and engaging plot easily sustains audiences, especially those who appreciate great filmmaking and acting.
Ryan Gosling portrays the LAPD cop/main Blade Runner “K” (also known by other names) in this film and his performance astounds. A key investigation turns into a personal journey for him. This loyal, high-performing officer also has a keen sense of justice well showcased in a sequence involving a work camp managed by Mister Cotton, played by Lennie James who deftly personifies the human desperation and opportunistic exploitation of this current society at the same time in a short, but memorable role.
Robin Wright plays Lieutenant Joshi, K’s superior, and Wood Harris (Remember the Titans, Creed, Ant-Man) and David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight) play colleague law enforcement personnel Nandez and Coco respectively.
As always, Wright impresses with her strength and conviction as her responsibilities have important consequences. “The World is built in a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there’s no wall… You bought a war,” she says.
K encounters other essential character throughout his investigation including Sapper Morton, played by Dave Bautista (Spectre, Guardians of the Galaxy), Mariette, played by Mackenzie Davis (The Martian), Dr. Ana Stelline, played by Swiss native Carla Juri, and Doc Badger played by Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips).
Cuban native Ana de Armas (Knock Knock, Hands of Stone) plays Joi, a unique character close to K who accentuates his good qualities as their relationship advances and refines. Her soft vocal delivery and ever evolving appearances hold great interest throughout a plot that takes a nice steady pace.
Harrison Ford returns as former blade runner Rick Deckard along with several other supporting characters that progress the story while providing key insight throughout K’s investigation.
“I did your job once – I was good at it,” says Deckard. “Things were simpler then,” K replies.
His bridge of knowledge gives K the information he needs as the story progresses to new heights. Not surprisingly Ford impresses with his delivery and screen presence, but Gosling definitely still owns this fantastic film.
The film reveals intimate details on the characters’ personal lives to audiences that provide explanations to the deeper and more common core – the struggle for power and, ultimately, survival in this futuristic world.
The struggle against the powerful Wallace Corporation definitely comes to the forefront when K encounters a file clerk played by Tómas Lemarquis (Jason Bourne) then Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks in a star making role. Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) plays puppet master Niander Wallace (a role originally envisioned for musician David Bowie) in an impressive performance focusing on dialogue that provides his motivations for the Corporation’s far-reaching actions and policies.
The conflicts definitely thrill with menace, excitement, and tension, but never completely overwhelm audiences. Filmmakers always douse viewers’ senses with the vast environments and technology then wisely use the character for the key emotional moments.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins (No Country For Old Men) will hopefully get his long deserved Academy Award for his great work here along with other crew members in lighting, visual effects, set design and memorable musical score from Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, which is punctuated by those memorably loud, sustained synthesizer slams, especially in wide angled camera shots with any characters or just a moving vehicle.
This saturated world has one main objective – presenting various ways for people to please themselves. K’s deeper commitment to society and good causes provide a stark contrast in this world where heroes and justice are scarce. Rejection or acceptance and complacency or revolution are the only choices an individual can make here.
The deep, rich Blade Runner 2049 comes highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) and is rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language. Patient audiences will be rewarded as filmmaker fans now have another new modern standard to enjoy. Also showing in 3D and IMAX theaters.