October 6, 2017

∴ Blade Runner 2049

I saw the premier of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 last night. It was, simply, epic.

Well-directed, well-cast, and possessed of a gifted cinematographer’s art (Roger Deakins; Sicario, Unbroken, Skyfall, True Grit, A Beautiful Mind), this film is a worthy sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner. Scott executive-produced here. If you’re a devotee of the earlier film, you’ll likely love Blade Runner 2049.

Methodic pacing allows for exploration of what Deckard and Rachael’s world has become thirty years later, and what has become of them. You could uncritically call it slow, for its pace is intentional. Villeneuve takes his time. His pacing mirrors that of the first Blade Runner over its entire two-hour, 43-minute run time. There’s simply more story here to tell.

Both his Arrival and Sicario were told this way, though with shorter run times.

It’d be a shame to shorten this film – there’s already a bit of a disconnect when a late plot element enters the story – so I suspect there’s a Director’s Cut is looming in our future. 

2049 had me riveted throughout most of it, particularly in the last half-hour. A “cameo” by Sean Young’s Rachael had me leaning in, trying to detect whether it was CGI or cutting room fodder from the first film. Alas, she had green eyes then.

***

Ever-present menace and misdirection are familiar Villeneuve tropes. In previous work, whether it’s alien spacecraft overhead, or the threat of imminent violence, he keeps the viewer’s mind off balance until the story’s done.

This film’s conclusion fell in that line: unexpected. As my pal Neal remarked when the lights came up after 2049, there’s a lot to digest.

Menace here is helped along by a throbbing soundtrack, my one beef. Where Vangelis’ soundtrack to the original Blade Runner conveyed beauty, wonder, emotion, and danger, Ben Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer’s bass-heavy, grating throb is nothing but danger. There’s no wonder or beauty in 2049 Los Angeles. The soundtrack reflected that, but it was at times simply irritating.

Casting of 2049 is terrific. Ryan Gosling’s deadpan delivery as a cop and a replicant comes without any of Harrison Ford’s weary delivery from the first film. Gosling’s Officer K’s status as a replicant is established right up front; no spoiler there. Who better to retire the faster, stronger old-model replicants than a fast, strong replicant?

This implicitly argues for Deckard’s status as a replicant in the first film. Some of the dialog between him and Gosling can be taken in that way, as well.

Robin Wright stands in for the original police Captain as a hard drinking, stone-faced cop-in-command. There’s a fleeting bit of womanliness to her character during one brief dialog with Gosling’s character, over a bottle of vodka. A flash, and gone. She’s all business, all the time.

Harrison Ford appears in the final third of the film. The only bit of humor in the entire film’s dialog came from him in a throw-away line of wryness, and again it’s but a flash. This is not a pleasant story, nor is humor at home among the gray shades of its cinematography.

Jared Leto’s character Niander Wallace and his lieutenant, Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv exude a creepiness that adds to the overall menace. These two were perfect counterpoints to Gosling and Ford.

An early turn by Dave Bautista as a hunted replicant is another of his surprisingly spot-on roles.

***

I’m always leery of sequels. They’re most often a disappointing follow-up to a well-loved story. It’s easier to count the sequels that don’t disappoint. This is one of them, enough so that it requires additional viewings to unravel what it has to say.

Highly recommended.

#Blade #Runner #2049 #Ryan #Gosling #Harrison #Ford #Robin #Wright #Sylvia #Hoeks

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