Revisiting past franchises rarely works out well but in the case of Blade Runner 2049, the film does something quite remarkable… it actually delivers a sequel that holds it’s own, and at times even surpasses the original.
The visual style of the film was beautifully teased in the strategically-vague teaser trailers (another great example of how to correctly market a movie in these overly-informed times). The aesthetic that director Denis Villeneuve has crafted perfectly pays homage to the sights and sounds of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece – seamlessly tying this chapter onto the 1982 original with a true sense of purpose.
Villeneuve is no stranger to delivering gems, with Arrival and Sicario acting as perfect launch pads for Blade Runner 2049, a ‘next-level’ film blessed with stunning spectacle and breathtaking action. The plot is deceptively simple – it’s the year 2049 and Blade Runner K (Ryan Gosling) uncovers some startling evidence that could change the very fabric of existence. To say more about the plot would do the film a huge disservice. And truth be told, that’s all you really need to know going in. Even those unfamiliar with the events of the first film get a handy intro that conveys the keys facts at the start.
Instead, I’d rather talk about the brilliant leading performance by Ryan Gosling, a man at the very top of his game. He’s sensational as K, an agent who has his own questions in a puzzle that has huge ramifications for everyone involved, himself included. Gosling has always been a leading man but this film (along with La La Land) proves his undoubted versatility. His magnetic screen presence is exactly what the role of K needed, and as an audience we are fully behind him and his plight for answers.
Ana de Armas is perhaps the biggest surprise as Joi. Her role as K’s artificial intelligence girlfriend is jaw-droppingly good. She has a tough role but her undeniable chemistry with Gosling crafts some amazing and heartfelt moments. Jared Leto is used very sparingly throughout Blade Runner 2049 but this makes his scenes all the more impactful. His right-hand woman is Luv is played with suitable allure and menace by Sylvia Hoeks. She has a much larger role and one that hooks you from the start.
Dave Bautista, a scene-stealing Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri and Lennie James also deliver noteworthy support. There’s even a great cameo from the legendary Edward James Olmos. I don’t want to mention Harrison Ford’s introduction in any great detail (again to preserve the integrity of the story), but when he does show up, it ramps up the stakes with Gosling and Ford making a formidable onscreen duo with instant rapport. Having now revisited his three most iconic roles in the past decade, his turn in Blade Runner 2049 is simply the best work he has done, with logic and world-weariness that perfectly encapsulates the journey Rick Deckard has made.
The Blade Runner 2049 Blu-ray release comes with the following added extras. Blade Runner 101: Six behind-the-scenes vignettes including The Replicant Evolution, Welcome to 2049 and the Rise of Wallace Corp. Prologues – Bridge the gap from the first film with three original shorts; 2036: Nexus Dawn – 6min short film directed by Luke Scott, 2048: Nowhere to Run – 6min short film directed by Luke Scott, 2022: Blackout – 15min short film directed by Shinichirô Watanabe. Designing the World of Blade Runner Featurette – an in-depth behind the scenes featurette with cast and crew including director Denis Villeneuve, executive producer Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling.
On practically every level, Blade Runner 2049 is stunning filmmaking that surpasses all of our expectations. The story resonates strongly, with spectacle and effects that only ever compliment the narrative. It never bows to the pressure of following on from the original, and instead embraces its legacy to provide a coherent, clever and utterly gorgeous sequel that is easily one of the best films of the year. Blade Runner 2049 is an unmissable classic that proves that clever science-fiction is still thriving (in the right hands). Experience it in IMAX to get a stunningly immersive experience.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Edward James Olmos Director: Denis Villeneuve Writer: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green Released By: Sony Pictures Certificate: 15 Duration: 163 mins Release Date: 5th February 2018