Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.
Director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival” and “Sicario”) has quite an impressive track record in his filmography in that he’s made consistently great films that challenge an audience’s reading of his films. His narratives are rich examinations of humanity and cruel environments, thus making him a perfect fit for directing the sequel to one of the most iconic and influential sci-fi films of all time.
Villeneuve and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Skyfall” and “No Country for Old Men”) constructed a film that honors the original vision of Sir Ridley Scott’s classic while also expanding the cinematographic world. The work that this duo proudly displays on the silver screen is the kind of stuff that reminds us why we go to the movies. They transport viewers to a visually stunning world with lighting and colors that audiences will drool over and every frame of the film being so beautiful to look at that they could easily be matted and framed for an art museum. The quality work by Deakins better win him his long overdue Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
The world of “Blade Runner 2049” feels real despite the fantastical exaggerations of technological advancements. This is due to the fact that, much like the original, the futuristic city of Los Angeles is depicted as being a miserable place to live in. The weather is unforgiving, the air is polluted and there’s tension between humans and replicants that are reminiscent of racial discrimination. The film even evolves the holographic advertisements that beg for your attention with bright neon colors and objectified women.
The film even does more with its sense of scale. In the original, it was shown to be more a claustrophobic environment. Whereas here, L.A. is shown to be stretching as far as the eye can see — inescapable. All of this is further brought to life through the suburb sound design and score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch that brilliantly pays tribute to the iconic work by Vangelis.
But for all the visual splendor that this film accomplished, the most important element of any film is the narrative, which thankfully ended up being worthwhile. Without giving too much away, the plot that was crafted for this sequel avoids many modern sequel cliches. It doesn’t tell half of a story in an attempt to build interest in a franchise, but instead, tells a complete three-arched narrative with respect to the ambiguous elements of the original “Blade Runner.” It never attempts to answer questions that don’t need answers, as part of what makes the original so great is the many interpretations that fans can read into.
The cast here present some of their best work for this film. Ryan Gosling gives a rich performance where he can say so much without an over-reliance of dialogue. Harrison Ford brilliantly shows that Deckard has some baggage from the 30 years in between films. Jared Leto is more reserved in his performance, possibly due to the backlash of “Suicide Squad.” Some of the more impressive performances come from the breakout performance of Ana de Armas as the loving Joi, Sylvia Hoeks as the film’s femme fatale ironically named Lov and the brief but memorable appearance of Dave Bautista.
The only complaint worth mentioning is the Villeneuve’s choice to pander to slower viewers by using brief flashbacks during scenes where characters learn new details as a reminder of what’s going on. But even this minor annoyance is inconsequential in comparison to all the pros working in the film’s favor.
Villeneuve solidifies himself as one of the new masters of cinema by taking on a film that on paper is unnecessary but turned it into a film that’s one of the best sequels ever made. “Blade Runner 2049” has many possible readings that will make for fun and in-depth conversations amongst the film fan community for years to come. Check out this film on an IMAX screen and be amazed by the images that can only be truly experienced in a theater.