Nobody with a Blade Runner tattoo on his or her ankle goes into Blade Runner 2049 feeling completely at ease. Two such people, my partner and I, entered a packed screening, thirty-five years after Ridley Scott’s original film was released. Here, a visionary hands over the sequel to Director Denis Villeneuve, who has built up an impressive body of gritty directorial work since Prisoners in 2013. Following on from the lesser known Enemy and award nominee Sicario, Villeneuve first showed promise of being the right man to inhabit Scott’s dystopian cinematic world when Arrival hit UK cinemas a year ago. Despite my reservations and personal concern that the project would taint the memory of the original, within the film’s first fifteen minutes I found myself unexpectedly and delightfully at home and in safe hands. I was apprehensive about the project from the first announcement of its pre-production several years ago. My anxiety only increased when it was announced Scott would not be in the director’s chair. Having witnessed both the triumph of Arrival and the disgraceful display that was Scott’s Alien Covenant, my stress was eased by the possibility that Villeneuve maybe actually be the right man for the job. Thirty minutes into Blade Runner 2049 and I was fully absorbed into a world that felt excitingly familiar, ambitiously original and relentlessly loyal.
K is a young and dedicated Blade Runner, working for the LAPD, spending his days ‘retiring’ replicants – those with an out-dated model type. He himself an android, Officer K lives a secluded life with his augmented girlfriend and meanwhile is referred to by society as a skinner; seen as a traitor by his own kind. Whilst on a job he stumbles across a dark secret from three decades ago which leads him to seek out Rick Deckard, the protagonist at the heart of Blade Runner who went missing in 2019. An aged Harrison Ford emerging from the shadows has become something of a trend over the last few years, as Han Solo and much less enjoyably as Indiana Jones. Don’t be fooled – Ford turns in a noble performance, capturing the essence of Deckard; a strong reminder of his complexity of character. Ryan Gosling appears deeply invested in the central role of K, giving both an understated and occasionally fragile performance. Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins partners here with the director for a third time and delivers what is possibly his greatest work within a back catalogue that includes 1984, The Shawshank Redemption, Kundun and Fargo. The film’s score captures the same wonder as Vangelis’ original and doesn’t fall victim to the predictable Han Zimmer-esque qualities I had feared would surface.
The film’s astounding aesthetic, overwhelming sound and captivating performances aside, what really makes Blade Runner 2049 excel is its confident but delicate handling of the mysteries, themes and quandaries presented in the first instalment. It is devoted to the ideals of this, an iconic cinematic future, but is also desperately intelligent in its approach to developing and expanding what has gone before. The film balances the old and the new very well. This is a complex expansion and solo venture unafraid to glance back nostalgically on its intimidating predecessor. It’s a film that is evidently made by someone who loves, admires and respects Blade Runner in exactly the same way that I do. It’s unwise to divulge any further elements of the film’s plot or purpose here as it really needs to be experienced rather than just described to you on paper. My advice – find the largest, loudest screening of Blade Runner 2049 you can and embrace a blockbuster like no other and a sequel with all the right intentions and the consequential rewarding results so many of us thought impossible.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.