A heavy synthesizer sound, flashing red and blue lights that reflect off the pooled streets of Los Angeles, the flick of an eye, humanity. These fundamentals of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi masterwork Blade Runner are refined to their purest form in the long-awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049.
Building on the original film’s retro-futurism and life-questioning pontifications with a bevy of surreal images and a gruesome dreamscape comes the single most assured science fiction experiments of this decade.
Following Officer K, a restrained but simmering Ryan Gosling, as he searches the streets of 2049’s L.A. in a twisting, neo-noir plot that fits more as a complimentary piece than a be all end all sequel some may be expecting. Thrills are to be had here but the film is intrinsically focused more on the characters and ideas over the moment to moment palpitations that may be had. This should by no means be a deterrent to those looking to see the film. The extensive level of craft and care that has gone into it’s creation should stand as reason alone as the film combines its intertwining elements into an audio-visual experience more akin to a dream than most modern films.
Director Denis Villeneuve once again proves he is a master of the form. From an early fight to a surreal and beautiful sex scene he provides a clear line through the dense story that trails just ahead of the viewer. He smartly avoids major exposition dumps in favour of escalating montages that visually provide more answers than any explanation potentially could. The outstanding, gobsmacking visuals by the Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins switches the neon soaked visuals of the original film for a dusted and destroyed palette that is only improved by the ominous, disparate electronic-synth score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.
The 163 minute runtime is intimidating at first glance but is unrepresentative of the film’s swift pace as the filmmakers use their time to fully envelop the viewer in the intricate, populated world by way of lavish sets, CGI and the coolest wardrobe since 2011’s Drive (Gosling always gets the coolest coats). From Gosling to Harrison Ford the cast is extremely well utilized and realized with relative newcomer Ana de Armas proving to have great chemistry in her time on screen.
Villeneuve and crew have crafted a loving expansion on Scott’s film that achieves the unimaginable in being on-par, or potentially even better, than what has come before.