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'Blade Runner 2049' Review

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October 11, 2017
Hunter Friesen
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Blade Runner 2049 is a slow and complex film that yet again tackles what it means to be human, lifting the Blade Runner series to new heights. The plot is new and doesn’t follow the usual sequel tropes, the acting is superb, and the production is first-class. Denis Villeneuve has performed the rare feat of making a worthy sequel to a beloved and influential cult classic. 

The plot of Blade Runner 2049 takes its time to unravel and demands strict focus to fully grasp every detail to piece the puzzle together. In the year, you guessed it, 2049, Officer K tracks down the replicant Sapper Morton, who is living out his life as a lonely farmer. While investigating the farm he finds a box with the skeleton of a woman. After examining the remains, we discover the woman died during childbirth and was a replicant. Replicants being able to have children wasn’t considered possible and could potentially create a widespread panic in the population. K is sent on a hunt to find and eliminate the replicant child before anyone else finds out. His journey leads him to meet with old and new faces such as the enigmatic replicant creator Neander Wallace and retired blade runner Rick Deckard.

The story plays out almost like procedural crime drama but is way better than anything you would find on television. We follow Officer K as he uses his detective skills and clues to figure out the history of the replicant child. We take breaks in between to see inside his private life and how his life experiences have made him who he is. The one problem with the plot is the pacing for the film's final third. The film carries a 163 runtime, slowly feeds you information, and builds the plot for the first two hours. It then feels like the final act needs to be quicker and leaves too early for us to fully comprehend and appreciate what is going on.

Just like the first Blade Runner, this film questions the idea of what it means to be human. We as humans in the real world see man as rational and capable of making the right decisions for the common good. In the film, we see man coexisting with replicants, with some replicants exhibiting more human traits than actual humans. You feel more for them than our kind because of the situation they are forced into and how they must deal with their short and hopeless lives. 

Fans and appreciators of the original will undoubtedly enjoy this sequel as it dives deeper into the dystopian future and builds upon the ideas Ridley Scott proposed to us way back in 1982. Denis Villeneuve continues this question flawlessly and keeps the mystery and intrigue flying the whole way. You can feel the influences and connection between Villeneuve's last film Arrival as we follow the main character as they struggle to grasp and understand the different world around them.

The biggest and best thing about this film is the masterful cinematography done by the legendary Roger Deakins. This is the third collaboration between Deakins and Villeneuve after Sicario and Arrival. Each shot is beautifully crafted and contains a whole story about the world we see. Seeing this film in IMAX will be worth your time and money. The most memorable shot comes when K is slowly walking through the red desert of Las Vegas and we see the destruction and unknown landscape he is entering. Deakins will receive an Oscar nomination (would be his fourteenth!) for his work and be in contention for his first statue. 

Complementing the breathtaking visuals is the amazing score done by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hans Zimmer, and Benjamin Wallfisch. These three composers have created a soundtrack that not only perfectly fits the futuristic setting, but also philosophical ideas presented during the film. The music is made for you to think about the world we live in and the things surrounding us. The highlight of the soundtrack also comes from the looming desert walk scene, where a string of booming noises disorients us from the world and we are exploring with fear and intrigue just like K.

The acting in this film is remarkable and outperforms almost every action blockbuster. Ryan Gosling gives a career-best as Officer K, a character having trouble figuring out his place in the world and coming to grips with his investigation. His performance here is comparable to his character in Drive, brooding and mysterious, but still, a very interesting character that we enjoy watching. While Deckard isn’t as interesting as Officer K, Harrison Ford does a solid job as a supporting character bridging the gap between the two films. Jared Leto is also great as the dark Neander Wallace. He barely gets any screen time but leaves a great impression on his role in the story. Great supporting performances also come from Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, and Ana de Armas. 

Blade Runner 2049 is an excellent sequel to a cult classic that carries the story forward while keeping the same ideas and themes fresh and exciting. This film should be experienced and appreciated just as highly as the original. Villeneuve has entered the highest realm of great 21st-century directors alongside Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and other visionaries.

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