Updated: June 2, 2021
Blade Runner 2049 Review
By Rich Cline
It’s been 35 years since Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019. This sequel is once again a visual spectacle that mixes super-cool images with a jaggedly engaging noir-style mystery that grapples with issues of memory and identity. It’s a staggeringly beautiful epic, as director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) invests intelligence and artistry into each imaginative setting. He also avoids falling into the standard structure of an action blockbuster, skipping hackneyed things like chase scenes for much deeper emotions.
In the past 30 years, earth’s eco-system has collapsed, leaving people scrambling for resources in grimy mega-cities like Los Angeles. Human-like replicants have been refined, but blade runners like K (Ryan Gosling) are still on hand to hunt down old models that have gone rogue. Then K discovers a skeleton of a replicant that apparently gave birth, which should be impossible. So K’s boss (Robin Wright) instructs him to hunt down the child and erase all evidence. But Wallace (Jared Leto), head of the monolithic corporation that controls all technology, wants to find the child himself. He sends his favourite sidekick Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to follow K and his virtual girlfriend Joi (Ana De Armas) as they track down long-lost blade runner Deckerd (Harrison Ford), who is hiding in radioactive Las Vegas and might have some answers.
The plot is packed with implications that get K’s mind spinning with possibilities, and the audience’s as well. And Gosling is terrific as a guy who is cold on the surface, only barely concealing his conflicting feelings. His scenes with de Armas are superb, as she offers him some romantic hope amid the doom and gloom. Gosling and Ford also generate some terrific chemistry, exchanging physical and verbal blows. And as the villain and his henchwoman, Leto and Hoeks bring plenty of menace.
The one thing missing is humour. There’s quite a bit of brittle sarcasm, but very little of the first film’s snappy wit. Although Villeneuve makes up for that with the awesome images, setting scenes in sand, snow, torrential rain and even a surging flood. Each sequence is packed with visual surprises that take the breath away, even as the underlying themes provoke thought on big issues relating to the meaning of humanity and whether it deserves to survive on a planet it has destroyed. So as the plot twists and turns, the settings and gadgets create a retro vision of the future that’s almost unnervingly recognisable as where we live right now.
Facts and Figures
Production compaines: Alcon Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Warner Bros., Thunderbird Films, Torridon Films
Cast & Crew
Starring: Ryan Gosling as Officer K, Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, Jared Leto as Niander Wallace, Ana de Armas as Joi, Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, Robin Wright as Lieutenant Joshi, Mackenzie Davis as Mariette, Dave Bautista as Sapper Morton, Carla Juri as Dr. Ana Stelline, Barkhad Abdi as Doc Badger, Lennie James as Mister Cotton, David Dastmalchian as Coco, Hiam Abbass as Freysa, Wood Harris as Nandez, Edward James Olmos as Gaff, Mark Arnold as Interviewer, Krista Kosonen as Doxie #2, Elarica Johnson as Doxie #3, Kingston Taylor as Boy with One Ear, David Benson as Liberace Look-A-Like, Ben Thompson as Elvis Look-A-Like, Suzie Kennedy as Marilyn Look-A-Like, Stephen Triffitt as Sinatra Look-A-Like, Ellie Wright as Little Ellie