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Review: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049
09.29.2017
8 10

PLOT: In 2049 Los Angeles, a blade runner - a hunter of rogue androids - discovers a mystery that may unlock the key to his own past and future.

REVIEW: Clearly the one question that will never get old in the world of sci-fi is, "Do androids dream of electric sheep?" The concept of artificial intelligence having thoughts and feelings is a mainstay in the genre; people are fascinated by the idea of a machine with a soul, and the funny thing about this is, no matter how many times the subject has been explored, the answer to that question often remains the same: Who can say?

BLADE RUNNER 2049 is the sequel to one of the most famous examples of the genre, and like its predecessor it is soberly contemplative about its central question. Are androids (or "skin jobs" in this world) capable of real emotion? If so, is that coming from their soul, or is it just how they were programmed to feel? If they were programmed to feel that way, does it make the feelings any less relevant? Classic food-for-thought in this genre, and these are still intriguing questions after all these years. The good news is, BLADE RUNNER 2049 dives head first into this quandary, examining characters who are lost in a world where they're forced to be what they don't want to be, while wrestling with thoughts and yearnings they can't know are genuine.

Per the studio's request, I will keep the synopsis utterly spoiler free. In fact, I can only tell you what the trailer tells you. Ryan Goslin plays K, a Blade Runner whose job it is to hunt down rogue skin jobs and either take them in or kill them. K is not a happy camper in this profession, understandably; it's a depressing and difficult job. After one such mission, he finds a box that holds the key to his destiny. Hunting down the truth of the contents of this box will lead him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), one of the original Blade Runners, who now lives in seclusion.

Is that vague enough for you? It's all you're going to get. And, truth be told, that's enough, because if you want to see BLADE RUNNER 2049 it's best you go in knowing not much at all. There are some surprises to be found, yes, but truth be told the spoilery stuff about the plot is not what makes the movie work. This is a mysterious, thought-provoking movie that is brilliantly handled by director Denis Villeneuve (ARRIVAL, SICARIO), who infuses the movie with just the right amount of melancholy and intensity. It moves at a deliberate pace, to be sure, but it always feels like an urgency is humming just underneath the surface, so even when scenes are slow and methodical we're glued the screen.

This is not the same movie as BLADE RUNNER, and it is not BLADE RUNNER but with more action for a modern audience. If anything, 2049 is more brooding, more philosophical, than its predecessor. It's a mystery where the first one was a film noir, and it absolutely takes its time getting to where its going. At over 2 1/2 hours, 2049 requires patience from its viewers, which is a good thing for people who love movies that aren't rushed and frenetic, but maybe not such a treat for the ADD set. This is not to say the movie isn't exciting at various intervals; it opens with a bang and closes with a very vivid set-piece that is exciting and scary. There are sequences throughout that provoke eerie dread and subtle chills, but overall 2049 is a quiet, thoughtful movie; more consumed with considering its characters and their motives than tossing them into battle every five minutes. I will admit the pace can be ponderous at times, and even though I always felt interested in the plot there are times when the film appears to slow down to a crawl when it should be picking up. Even a patient viewer like myself felt that the story needed a bit more urgency at times.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins is probably the MVP here. Naturally, he has done great work in the past and might even be the best living D.P. at the moment, and he has outdone himself here. Every frame of 2049 is a marvel to behold, with some scenes being bright, vibrant and colorful, and others being shadowy, muted and gray. No matter what you think of the final product, you cannot say it's not consistently engaging on a purely visual level. I know awards mean nothing, but if Deakins doesn't win an Oscar for this then we should all pack it in and call it a day.

Ryan Gosling is often at his best when he's playing the strong, silent type, and he has basically perfected that persona here, giving a performance that is very still and yet has so much going on underneath the surface. There is one moment in particular when he sees something that means a great deal to him, and the camera simply holds on his face for what feels like a full minute while he processes what he's seeing. It's incredibly moving. For his part, Harrison Ford is, well, grizzled Harrison Ford, and you know what that looks like. Deckard is obviously older, wearier, more cynical (if possible) than he was in the first film, and Ford has no problem playing that. A stand-out turn comes from Ana de Armas as K's special companion. She is yet another element of the film I cannot spoil, but it's such a touching and enchanting performance from the actress. And for those of you wondering about Jared Leto, well, I'll just say I think his sections are the weakest elements of 2049, but not necessarily because of him. I just wasn't connecting to his sequences.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 is an immensely compelling film, one that will surely divide certain audiences; it will make for a great conversation piece. I'm excited to see the reaction to it, because I think it's impossible to predict how any one person might respond to it. It's not an easy film to reckon with, it doesn't give you easy answers to swallow, and when it's all over you may feel just as unsure of its intentions as you did when it started. But it's a serious and striking piece of work, made by a filmmaker who is turning out to be one of the greats working today. Sci-fi aficionados don't dare miss it.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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