"Blade Runner 2049" Review

by

For its time, 1982’s “Blade Runner” was mind-blowing, sophisticated science fiction at it's best. Its long-awaited sequel, “Blade Runner 2049” is equally worthy of such praise.

Of course Harrison Ford starred in the original, which came out around the same time as his early “Indiana Jones” and "Star Wars" films. In the past decade, Ford’s had the opportunity to reprise his three most iconic characters: Indy, Han Solo and now LAPD Blade Runner Rick Deckard. He supplied Jones and Solo with plenty of humanity in the newest chapters of those franchises. And he does the same with his Deckard revival, providing a fascinating portrayal of a character reflecting on the actions of his past and his outlook for the future.

But the actor who puts “2049” in motion is Ryan Gosling, who plays current LAPD Officer K. 30 years later society still needs Blade Runners - cops who track down and destroy “replicants” - robots with human characteristics. Like Deckard before him, that’s K’s job. But there are also some major differences between the two. Gosling overplays the brash, rebel cop a bit in a few early scenes, but then settles in nicely. The parallels of the past and present with these two men is one of the main threads of “2049” and when they finally intersect the film elevates to new heights.

Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling in "Blade Runner 2049"
Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling in "Blade Runner 2049"

But most everything leading-up to that point also works extremely well. While "Blade Runner" balanced story with a stunning vision of the technological future, "2049" is less about look and practically all about the humanity of its characters - even those who aren’t human. Director Denis Villeneuve (of "Arrival") keeps the same tepid pace and dismal but visually appetizing landscape of the world, but provides a layered narrative that the original just didn’t have.

At 2 hours and 43 minutes,"2049" is the longest mainstream movie of 2017 so far. But, to steal an old Roger Ebert truism: "No good movie is too long." Villeneuve allows scenes to develop slowly, but they never drag - instead heightening your focus and attention. The cinematography is bold (Roger Deakins may finally win that Oscar) and the soundtrack is powerful and often overwhelming.

The supporting cast is dominated by female characters who control Gosling's K in varying ways. Robin Wright (as police lieutenant Joshi) and Ana De Armas (K's on-again, off-again girlfriend - you'll get that when you see the movie) are standouts.

"Blade Runner 2049" is a film about connection. Its evolving, substantial script packs-in what fans of the original, and movie fans in general, were hoping for.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)