Blade Runner 2049

Year: 2017
Production Co: 16:14 Entertainment
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Michael Green/Hampton Fancher
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista, Lennie James, Barkhad Abdi, Sean Young

There must be a handful of cineastes in the world who aren't rabid devotees of Ridley Scott's dystopian 1982 take on one of Philip K Dick's best short stories (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), but they're few and far between.

By now you'll have learned from the critical firmament how brilliant Blade Runner 2049 is, and if the orignal film still leaves you cold, you'll assume French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) has made something reverent to the original in every day.

Here's the strange thing – he has, but the reviews are still right. It manages the extremely delicate balance of being completely in tune with the original Blade Runner and surpassing it in every way, from the singular art direction to the long, langourous way it unfolds at its own pace.

It's interesting that 2017 has given us two long belated sequels to Ridley Scott classics and of them both, the one that really works wasn't even directed by him (the less said about the one that was – Alien: Covenant – the better).

It's thirty years since the events of the original film and a new blade runner, K (Ryan Gosling) – himself bioengineered – is still on the case outlined in the days of the Tyrell Corporation, even though the company is long gone. Replicants have now been assimilated into society as servants and slave labour, but every time one gets ideas above its station it's up to agents like K to hunt them down and retire them in the traditional fashion by blowing them away.

He tracks replicant Sapper (Dave Bautista) down to a small farming operation, dispatches him with ice cool and finds something incredible while sweeping the area with his specialised drone-cam – human remains buried under a tree.

Bringing the mysterious fragments back to his headquarters in the same neo-noir California we know from the first film, he and his commander Joshi (Robin Wright) are shocked when the lab reveals it to be a replicant who was once pregnant with a child, assumed to be an impossibility. Stranger still, it's revealed to be Rachael, the replicant from the first film who fell in love with the blade runner tasked to kill her, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

Joshi orders all evidence of the child found and erased, the child itself killed if it's still around – if word that replicants can reproduce gets out, it could spark a revolution. But during his enquiries, K runs afoul of the Wallace Corporation, the corporate behemoth that now oversees the replicant program. The enigmatic Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) wants to discover how replicants reproduce so he can populate interstellar colony missions, so he sends his fearsome assassin helper, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), to follow K and see what he finds out.

The trail leads to an abandoned orgphage in San Diego, and K starts to connect it with memories in his head he always assumed were implants. Among them is a toy wooden horse that's right where his memory of it says it will be, leading him to the startling conslusion that Racheal had a child and that he might be it, human after all.

The race is on to find Deckard and learn the truth, by way of a memory engineer who can tell K whether the orphanage, the horse and everything else he thought was programming is in fact real.

Just like Blade Runner, Every set and location of Blade Runner 2049 has been designed not just to the nth degree but with the utmost visual care. From Wallace's office with the reflection of waves in motion projected against the walls to the sandblasted climes outside the city and the towering holograms within, it looks and feels every bit like a Blade Runner movie, only with the more expansive scope the filmmaking technology of today offers. It's no wonder this is the film everybody's talking about finally winning Roger Deakins a cinematography Oscar for.

The camera drifts and glides, taking its time to show you the frame just the like spoken dialogue and unfolding narrtive takes its time to reveal the plot. It both captures and emboldens the work done by Scott and his then production designer Lawrence G Paull and cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth. Villeneuve and his art and construction people have the designs, aesthetic, colours and textures of Scott's sci-fi noir world absolutely perfect.

The story is the one element that isn't as impactful. It's hard to remember even a short while later and once again, Harrison Ford seems completely disinterested in being there, looking like he'd rather be sititng in a home with a blanket over his knees barking at kids to get off his lawn than doing this kind of thing any more.

The other really big shame is that by the time it came out in October 2017, the blockbuster crowds had all gone back to school and everybody tends to be sick of the adventure and sci-fi movies that crowd the midyear period. Despite the glowing reviews, it couldn't get punters into the cinema to see it.

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