Review of Blade Runner 2049

This was another one of those movies that stuck with me. Anything that fills my thoughts for hours—or even for days—is worth my appreciation.

Just like the original, Blade Runner 2049 has great music, gorgeous visuals, and gruesome action scenes. There’s a carful effort to make the audience question themes such as sentience and what constitutes humanity. Even if someone was programmed to have certain feelings, thoughts and to say certain things, are they still technically a sentient being? After all, our DNA programs us, our upbringing codifies our behaviours, our memories build our world view.

I was originally worried when I watched the trailer, which was edited to make the movie seem like a stereotypical action film. We had explosions, gun shots, a pretty love interest. But once again I was fooled: the movie works as a contemplative piece of speculative fiction, full of thoughtful moments and raw emotion.

The story is haunting and the visuals reinforce that feeling. There are some truly heartbreaking moments. Frightening violent actions. Acting and special effects that made me forget that I was watching actors on green screens.

The future is depressing and enticing. There are post-apocalyptic landscapes and grandiose, epic horizons. Everything has a worn, lived-in feel. Thankfully not all technology is hyper modern: there are lots of things that seem almost archaic and “old school”. It made it all feel more “real”.

The music is fantastic. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch honour Vangelis without being patronizing. Moody electronic soundscapes that reinforce this vision of the future that was borne out of the 1980s. It doesn’t feel tacky or fake; they really tried to make it genuine.

Denis Villeneuve, the director, enchanted me with Arrival (my review here). He ensures that every emotion is given focus without being saccharine. He is a fantastically talented visual artist and I will always follow his endeavours.

I also liked how Harrison Ford’s reappearance as Decker doesn’t take over the story. It really is about the main protagonist, K (aka Joe). I thought that he was wonderfully subdued and earnest; more so than in the original.

Ryan Gosling is great as K/Joe. As usual, in his subtlety, Ryan nails it, lets us appreciate the story without interrupting it with his actor ego. It’s no spoiler that he’s a Replicant himself, although as the mystery unfolds (and his acting shows) this becomes ambiguous.

Robin Wright was great and strong. A very admirable actor. She has a reassuring presence that’s hard for me to explain.

Sylvia Hoeks was frightening. It’s rare that I’m actually really nervous and worried at the presence of an antagonist whenever they’re on the screen, but she nailed it as a sadistic, murderous, broken creature.

It’s a thoughtful Science Fiction movie that poses questions, makes you think as much as you feel, and takes its time to show you a story. My favourite kind of speculative fiction. Sadly, this will not be a huge success in the “Fast and the Furious” generation. Most people will be bored, but I didn’t feel the length at all. I think that you’ll enjoy this if you like films by Christopher Nolan or smart movies that aren’t made to strictly appeal to the cult of Michael Bay and Rom Coms.

The final action scene is very untraditional. No explosions, epic battles or fist-pumping moments of “yeah! Kick ass!”. It was disturbing and depressing. But in a good way. It just isn’t a dumb action flick; not that there’s anything wrong with that. I enjoy simple super hero movie once in a while. But, at the risk of being labelled as pretentious, Blade Runner is supposed to be more elevated than that. And this movie keeps that standard.

It’s moments like this:

…that make this film memorable. This scene in particular isn’t just a typical “kiss in the rain” scene. It has existentialism and even slight foreboding. In fact, all of the scenes between these two artificial intelligences had a feeling of tragic pathos. They’re both trying so hard to be real: to feel real feelings. Every scene of romance was filled with an equal part of sadness.

A great film, go see it, but be ready: it’s intense, rich and atmospheric. And long: don’t make any plans after unless they’re relaxed and contemplative. I really think that you should give it a try. Movies like this strive to be more than just a way to pass the time; the visual medium is also art.