Sunday, 12 November 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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A worthy follow-on

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Running Time: 164 Minutes
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, David Dastmalchian, Barkhad Abdi

For a while now, Hollywood has seemed interested in building off audience nostalgia. From Star Wars to Independence Day, and even Dumb and Dumber, the nostalgia has led to further instalments being made long after their predecessors, whether they're wanted or not. The trend has finally led to a Blade Runner sequel, and thankfully, it manages to live up to it's long lauded predecessor.

Thirty years after the events of the first film, we follow a new Blade Runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling). He unearths a secret that's been long buried, and has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's investigation leads him to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner who's been missing for thirty years.

If the synopsis seems vague, that's more than intentional. Director Denis Villeneuve crafts the film with the intention of keeping cards close to his chest, allowing the story to unfold before viewers eyes, as they're watching the picture themselves. Make no mistake, this is not an action film. What few scenes of action aren't lingered upon, but instead are quick and brutal. The focus isn't to titulate audiences with gunplay and fisticuffs, but instead to concentrate upon the investigation, as well as the characters. At 164 minutes, this is a slow burner of a film, but Villeneuve delivers enough compelling material to keep ones attention firmly grasped by the proceedings.

Acting as the films protagonist is Officer K, a Blade Runner played by Ryan Gosling. He unwillingly finds himself at the centre of what occurs, as a typical job turns into something more. He understands what the ramifications could be in regards to what he's discovered, how it'd affect many others, and begins questioning much of what he believes, and isn't always sure of what to do. Gosling finds himself more than up to the task, proving himself a compelling lead.

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This could have easily been a cash grab role for Harrison Ford, brought to life by the returning actor sleepwalking through the role. Make no mistake, his return as Rick Deckard is far from that. It's plain to see on his face that his life has been hell since he was last seen, and Ford is more than up to the task of embodying that. This doesn't feel like an actor returning to the role, but rather somebody who never left it, who's been through the characters journey throughout those lost 30 years. It's easily one of the best performances of his career.

The standout member of the cast has to be Sylvia Hoeks, who portrays Luv with a cruel efficiency. She's completely mesmerising when on-screen, and more of a memorable figure than Jared Leto's underused Niander Wallace. Ana de Armas impresses as Joi, the doting girlfriend of K. That character description is often associated with an underdeveloped romantic role, but there's more to her than initially appears, and unveils fascinating layers upon repeat viewings. This is especially noticeable during one scene, involving Mackenzie Davis' character, the purpose of which is to show the love Joi holds for K. It's a divisive scene, but one this reviewer found rather touching.

Roger Deakins has long proven himself a phenomenal cinematographer, as well as one of the best working today. He more than backs up those claims here, with each frame of his work proving nothing short of stunning. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch excel with the score, delivering an exceptional treat for the ears. These combined efforts make for one of the years best cinematic experiences.

It must not have been easy for Denis Villeneuve. To make a sequel to a classic piece of cinema, one often well regarded and routinely discussed about, must have been a daunting task, but thankfully, he more than rises to the occasion. Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy follow-up to Ridley Scott's original, which delivers thought provoking musings, a compelling story worth seeing unfold, and glorious performances to boot. You can breathe a sigh of relief, as this is a sequel made with the utmost care and respect.

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