Is it possible for something to be the same yet different? Deliberate, but heart racing? Chillingly quiet, but loudly intense?
In the case of “Blade Runner 2049”, it’s all of the above. This thought-provoking, nerve-rattling sci-fi masterpiece is not a clumsy reboot or remake with dollar signs in its eyes. In fact, this nearly three hour marathon of a film seems quite content in spurning any such notion.
Prior to all screenings, a note written by director Denis Villeneuve himself specifically asks everyone writing about “Blade Runner 2049” to effectively keep our mouths shut and allow everyone to enjoy the plethora of surprises within. While some of these revelations aren’t extremely Earth shattering and can easily be gleaned from trailers, there are some fairly big plot developments that are best left unmentioned.
There are a few items that can be mentioned. Of course, this movie is a sequel to 1982’s “Blade Runner.” If you have not seen that film, there is a zero percent chance you’ll understand anything happening in “2049.” The name itself, “Blade Runner”, is given to those who hunt down rogue replicants, which are incredibly human-like androids with varying amounts of lifespan.
Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner for the Los Angeles Police Department and while apprehending Sapper Morton (an extremely effective Dave Bautista), he uncovers a secret that would shatter the unsteady imbalance between humans and their creations.
This is just about all the info that anyone should know before they walk into a theater. Director Villeneuve is right to want to protect the secrets in Hampton Fancher’s screenplay. The dialogue is sparse, which suits the world Villeneuve has created. Fancher’s story does require every bit of attention you can give it and missing a few minutes (even the ones bathed in silence) could leave you lost without any hope of getting back up to speed.
In case you’ve been under a rock, don’t read the following info: Harrison Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard from the original film. As in the original, Ford’s Deckard is a man of few words and he does not suffer fools. Even though his character could potentially be a bevy of information, there’s no grand speech or exposition and there’s a chance Ford brings a tear or two to your eye. It’s one of the best performances he has had in the last twenty years.
Even though they are in only a handful of scenes, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, and, in particular, Jared Leto are fantastic. Hoeks is menacing as Leto’s Gal Friday and Wright’s final scene encapsulates everything to admire about such a fantastic actress. It’s best to learn how de Armas fits into “2049” on your own, but she is highly effective in a very odd role.
Leto plays a bit of a mad scientist that creates replicants and you’d almost expect for him to overplay his hand and devour the scenery. That is surprisingly not the case and he is quite understated, which only adds to how eerie his character is.
This is the perfect role for Ryan Gosling and much like his character in “Drive”, he seems ready to explode in rage at any moment. He gives off an air of calm at all times, even though he’s clearly miserable and basically dying inside, all with ease. Also, no actor takes a beating like Gosling, which he does repeatedly in this movie.
While the story and actors are all exceptional, “Blade Runner 2049” has two stars that won’t once appear on screen. They are cinematographer Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Glassner. Everything in this world looks real and done with practical effects, which is fairly mind-blowing when considering the scope of this movie. Deakins has been nominated for countless Oscars, yet never won. That should change with this movie and it needs to be seen on the largest screen possible.
All of this is managed with care and methodical (some may say too methodical) precision by Villeneuve. Sure, it’s extremely long and could maybe use some editing, but what’s the point of that? It’s been 25 years since the original and the world of “Blade Runner 2049” is so lush and filled with intrigue that wanting to leave this world any sooner doesn’t make sense. This immediately goes on the short list of best sequels ever and, don’t tell anyone, but it may even be better than the original.