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Review: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) is the sequel to the iconic 1982 film Blade Runner. This story takes place 30 years after the first film and follows K, a blade runner played by Ryan Gosling. While investigating for his latest case, K makes an earth-shattering discovery.

It is impossible for me to start this review without mentioning the visuals of this film. Blade Runner 2049 is breathtaking. Denis Villeneuve and his cinematographer Roger Deakins have created an incredible extension of the world we saw in the first Blade Runner. The movie ventures outward from the futuristic LA, too; we’re taken from the garbage-strewn wastelands of greater California to an abandoned, irradiated Las Vegas. VFX, cinematography, costume and production design are all sensational.

Everything seems so credible even though the world is so different from our own. This is perhaps due to the recurring use of natural elements such as rain and snow. This mix of nature and futuristic technology gives a sense of reality even though the colourful lighting is sometimes anything but naturalistic. The Wallace Corporation, where replicants are made, is lit with rippling yellow light and this is the most eye-catching location of the film. On top of the amazing visuals, the sound effects and music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch bring the world shown to life. 2049 is not only a film we see, but a film we live.

Visually, the film is even more stunning than its predecessor. Story-wise, however, I feel it is a bit weaker. The screenwriters Hampton Fletcher (Blade Runner) and Michael Green (Logan) have done a good job of starting conversations on many important themes such as ecology, the danger of technologies, the power of memories, the importance of birth and death and what makes us human. Some amazing scenes stayed with me long after viewing the film, notably an incredible love scene and a fight involving Deckard, K and Elvis Presley. The detective story is solid and kept me on my toes throughout the film, although sometimes you can guess in advance what will happen, and there is a lot of unnecessary on-the-nose dialogue to make sure the audience understands what is going on.

The amazing cast does justice to the strong characters: Ryan Gosling is the embodiment of “less is more”, and his subtle acting creates deeply emotional scenes. Harrison Ford adds even more depth to his iconic character; Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks give good portrayals of their scary, menacing (but clichéd) characters, and Robin Wright and Carla Juri are perfect in their interesting female roles. However, it is Ana de Armas who steals the show. Her character, Joi, is fascinating and imaginative and De Armas is certainly one to watch!

I really enjoyed the film but I couldn’t help wondering why I was so gripped: was it because of this story or because I was back in a world I loved? Anyone who has not seen the first film might find this film slow and confusing. That, in my opinion, makes it a great sequel, but ultimately it is weaker than Ridley Scott’s film, which can stand alone.

For all its flaws, this film is the best big production I’ve seen in a while. Outstanding work has produced outstanding results. Perhaps this is why so many critics are calling it one of the best sequels ever made. If you are a fan of Blade Runner or if you go to the cinema to be visually blown away, you will not be disappointed!

Blade Runner is showing at City Screen now. Image source: Vox.com

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Rebecca Gallon

Second year Film and Television production student at the University of York.

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