Oct 12th, 2017, 03:30 PM

Review: Blade Runner 2049

By Laurence Hewitt
Blade Runner 2049. Image credit: YouTube/Warner Brothers
Move over Westworld, the King has retuned for his crown.

Miracles make up this world, some of which only a select few witness and some that we observe every day. We might not all believe in miracles, perhaps because some of us fear what we can't explain and others are afraid of what we already know or what we're on the cusp of discovering. Blade Runner 2049 is a miracle, it's a defining movie that understands what it means to be human, and more importantly, it recognizes what it means to bear witness to beauty in times of trouble.

For a film that is so interested in robotics, it is shockingly human. Director Denis Villeneuve has crafted the perfect science fiction story and wrapped it in a fascinating mystery that keeps you guessing until the film's final moments. It's tough to speak about it without spoiling anything, but all that's necessary to know is that Officer K (Ryan Gosling in his best performance) is given a case, the details of which are spoilers frankly. The rest of the cast is filled out by Ana de Armas as Joi, Robin Wright as Officer K's boss Lt. Joshi, Jared Leto as the villainous Niander Wallace and Sylvia Hoeks as Niander's secretary/assassin Luv.

The elephant in the room is, of course, Harrison Ford, returning as Rick Deckard 35 years later. The character is a crucial part of 2049 but also one whose function should be discovered on your own. While there is little I can say about actual details of the plot, but for a film that is 163 minutes long, it moves at an incredible pace—every scene is providing a new piece to the puzzle or a new awe location. The story makes sure that it never repeats plot beats from the original film nor is it a slave to that film's ideas. While I wouldn't say that the original is essential viewing in regards to having a basic understanding of 2049, but it is unquestionably a more profound experience if you're familiar with the original.

Blade Runner 2049. Image credit: YouTube/Warner Brothers

The film's plot is far more noir than sci-fi, just as it should bethe twists and turns are never unearned, and the film will never leave you confused. The story is an intricate puzzle where every piece has a purpose to fulfill. Given the length of the film, it almost seems obvious to say that it's a miracle how the massive tapestry it weaves somehow never manages to fall apart. The classic film epic died a long time ago, for instance: Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur, Cleopatra and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series may be the closest we've come in recent years, but Blade Runner 2049 feels like a real epic.

In a film that stacks exceptional elements, none is perhaps more remarkable than Roger Deakins' cinematography. The British born DP has had a whopping 13 Oscar nominations, but no wins despite being behind the camera on films such as Skyfall, Sicario, The Shawshank Redemption, and Fargo. Deakins' work on this film is beyond immersive; he captures every visual trait of the original Blade Runner while adding more layers. Every shot has such pure beauty. For a world so unrealistic, there is a deeply grounded realism in his visuals, as everything feels alive but artificial, all in one. The film is such a sight to behold that it could work as a silent film or a series of still images—even if someone were to describe the shots, you would grasp the world.

Blade Runner 2049. Image credit: YouTube/Warner Brothers

The second most impressive element is the score. The original film's score defined sci-fi for an entire generation, and the synthetic jazz of the original adds immeasurably to this film's vibe. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have crafted a fascinating mix of old and new, integrating the sound of the original with the style of modern techno. The thumping score adds considerable depth to the film's atmosphere. Although, one issue is that none of the film's original music is as memorable as the original film's themes, seeing as the best music pieces are still reinterpretations of the classic Blade Runner themes. 2049 lacks a new sound, but it takes what works and runs with it.

There are very few films that stay with you, and there are even fewer which inspire—Blade Runner 2049 is immersive. The film is humane and robotic, dazzling and depressing, tender and cold, massive and intimate, but most importantly, it is beautiful to its core. Blade Runner 2049 pushes you to rethink what it means to be human, what it means to have a purpose, and what it means even to be alive. The film won't hold your hand, but if you reach out and grab Blade Runner 2049, it will fundamentally change your view on cinema and maybe even, your outlook on humanity.

View the trailer for Blade Runner 2049 here: