Review: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049

Aaron Farrell

A return to the dystopic, smoke-filled, neon-lit streets of 1982’s Blade Runner, this sequel is in no way the pompous, bloated follow up you might expect.

It once again explores the grand themes, electric atmosphere and a volatile world which ignited the hearts, minds and souls of a generation of filmmakers and cinema fans alike.

Ryan Gosling’s Officer K is a new breed of Blade Runner. Working for the LAPD, K’s job is to track, hunt and retire ‘replicants’ that hide in the shadows of the brooding city.

Whilst on the job, K stumbles upon a long-buried secret that has the potential to change the very rules of the world in which he lives.

Down the rabbit hole

Director Denis Villeneuve is an angel. When I read that he was attached to the BladeRunner sequel, whatever apprehension I had disappeared. His body of work has never failed to blow me away.

Enemy is a surreal nightmare of identity, Prisoners the spiritual successor to David Fincher’s genre-defining cop noir Se7en.

Sicario is a dread-inducing showcase of the human spirit in decline and Arrival, a big Sci-Fi blockbuster with intelligence, heart and import.

Watching Blade Runner 2049 I realised everything that came before was merely a warm-up for what he presents here.

Villeneuve utilises everything used in the past to deliver a film so replete with life, that its essence bores deep inside to salt the ideas presented, not only making them tastier but preserving their meaning.

If Blade Runner was the scramble toward the light above then 2049 is the plunge deeper into dystopia.

This, all thanks to our proxy in Ryan Gosling as K. Although initially seeming like a quiet performance, as the narrative blooms, so does Gosling.

He certainly channels his performance in Drive, but this is by no means a rehash. The angst, despair, desire, longing he portrays through his stare are subtitles to his mind.

Gosling is a still tree in the first few scenes. Cold and distant although not unaware of his plights and the prejudices of the world. As the story unravels, however, the tree is whittled into a piece of living, breathing art.

Gosling may be the spearhead here as 2049 is his film and story (this isn’t to take anything away from Deckard so worry not fellow fans) but every character casts a shadow.

Bold

Ana de Armas is vulnerable yet inspiring as Joi, K’s confidant and love. She is intoxicating and plays against Gosling tremendously. The characters complement one another, wanting to protect and enable.

Robin Wright’s Lieutenant Joshi is stern and sharp, as if Claire Underwood left politics for policing.

Niander Wallace is the self-appointed prodigal son of Tyrell and his corporation. He is a self-aggrandising romantic with a soft voice and stolid resolve.

Jared Leto as Niander proposes a new take on the Replicant race. As does Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton, an android who must hide his humanity.

Mackenzie Davis is Mariette, a sex worker that looks eerily like Daryl Hannah’s acrobatic Pris – when she was first cast I thought it must be for some sort of flashback.

Sylvia Hoek’s Luv, Wallace’s right-hand woman, is a revelation. Frighteningly subservient and with a penchant to prove herself.

The movie is full of these bold, full characters – and I haven’t even mentioned Harrison Ford. I’ll say little other than this might be his most nuanced and aching performance on film.

‘Career best’ is a term that could be attributed to everyone involved in Blade Runner 2049.

Painstaking

The original film’s Art Style and Direction ignited the imaginations of its audience.

The imagination of Philip K Dick was transported from the pages of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep – a classic of the Science Fiction genre and one of my personal favourites – into film reel by director, Ridley Scott.

Designers undertook a painstaking process of artistic design for logos, products, vehicles, weapons, people, and androids to create then perpetuate Los Angeles 2019.

The sheer scale of the world boggles my mind on every viewing of the original but 2049 somehow expands upon what was, to create a gargantuan setting primed to swallow any who look upon it.

Whilst we spend time in the darkened cityscape of LA, we also go beyond that, granting a larger view of the eco/sociological state in which android and humankind inhabit a dying world.

Art Direction wasn’t the only subliminal vortex which immersed the audience in Blade Runner for Vangelis’ score is as iconic as Roy Batty’s monologue or the steaming streets.

Vangelis hasn’t returned for 2049 (Villeneuve collaborator Johan Johannsson was set to compose but Villeneuve decided to go with something closer to Vangelis’s original tone) but on-board is Benjamin Wallfisch (recently scaring cinemagoers with his violent string in IT) and the omnipresent Hans Zimmer.

As such, the score is a delight, capturing the old in a haunting, impactful way whilst evoking K’s tumultuous journey in a different time. Prepare the soundtrack for the car journey home from the cinema.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…

Blade Runner 2049 has a substantial run-time of 163 minutes but there isn’t a wasted frame.

Roger Deakins has created a picture of such visceral beauty and vivid iconography that with such grandstanding aplomb, he has cemented himself as the favourite for the Best Cinematography Oscar.

The lighting of the original film is thin and searching, adding tension as it passes over the key players in an accusatory manner. The lighting of 2049 is godly and ever-changing. A presence in itself.

Whether it be the light of dancing water in Niander Wallace’s HQ or the ethereal burnt orange hue of a deserted landscape that can be seen in the trailers and posters, light morphs and shapes the locales of 2049 into dystopic art installations. Not one of which is disposable to the aesthetics nor the narrative.

The pace of 2049 may be a slow crawl but you can be sure it is meant to be that way. The audience isn’t manipulated by shock and awe tactics. The plot itself is shocking and awe-inspiring enough.

It doesn’t ask for, nor demand your attention as much as it rewards it on a titanic level for a little intellectual insight.

There is a ponderous air to proceedings, allowing for time to digest the subtlety in the story.

It’s scale and ambition are mighty and whilst I may seem to be speaking in hyperbole, it is hard not to gush about a story so important and integral to the genre, medium and political climate.

This is a masterpiece that somehow honours and builds upon the humanistic themes of the book and the original film, all the while exploring the morality of a new generation.  It penetrates so deep as to scar your bones.

Blade Runner 2049 is a romantic, ponderous picture about the beauty and brevity of life. It showcases poetry and prose through its narrative and radiates imagery and sound that envelops and intrigues.

Sitting and experiencing it for the first time, I knew I was witness to a cinematic milestone, as I know I will be in each subsequent viewing.

This is a child that had no right to be what it is and yet has defied expectations in every conceivable way.

Even Roy Batty wouldn’t believe what he has seen in Blade Runner 2049.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

We do not moderate comments before they appear. The views expressed in the comments are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nation. Cymru. Please read our community standards and participation guidelines before contributing.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
BoiCymraeg
Guest
BoiCymraeg

Whilst this is a good review and very well written, I don’t feel this is the right forum for this sort of material. Where is the Wales connection? I don’t imagine this is why most people subscribe to this website and there should be a consistent editorial policy otherwise what purpose does Nation.Cymru serve?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Do welsh androids dream of electric sheep?

BoiCymraeg
Guest
BoiCymraeg

After all, the welcome page claims “There is no reason for us to waste precious resources creating content that is already being supplied by other sites.” I am sure I could find hundreds of reviews of this film in English elsewhere.

Nathan Abrams
Guest

Da iawn Aaron! I’m going to see it tonight.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Wasn’t the city scape in the original based on the view of portalbot steel works towers glowing and billowing smoke and steam into the night sky?

Cynan
Guest
Cynan

I also read this somewhere!

Cynan
Guest
Cynan

Did some digging and you are correct. Ridley Scott cites it as inspiration after seeing the view of the works from the M4 after travelling home from West Wales. Easy to see similarities with views like this: https://imgur.com/a/nnVVw .

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

I saw some comments wondering why this article was here and just thought I’d say my bit, because I personally think broadening the content is a very good idea. It really depends on whether readers simply want a political blog (and there are plenty of those knocking about), with some other specifically Welsh interest stuff or whether the editor would like to grow this into something with broader appeal, that would make it a bit more like a traditional Newspaper/magazine. I assume, that increasing content needs revenues and to achieve revenues then it needs readers and to me that means… Read more »

boicymraeg
Guest

I certainly think there should be a broad range of content and I certainly don’t think every post should have a political theme: as you say, there are plenty of other blogs that do this. However, I am also of the view that the site should have a coherent theme and purpose, and that that theme should be Wales and all things Welsh, and its pupose to report on those things. My understanding of Nation.Cymru’s purpose and vision is to fill the perceived lack of focus on such issues in other media. The above review, as enjoyable and well written… Read more »

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

Fair points – a welsh interest element could and perhaps should have been woven into this or if that’s not possible, then why people in Wales are looking forward to this or who in Wales will be interested in this, might work?

Maybe that was missing here and something I think most journalists would try to do as a rule – often contrived though, it must be said.

Adam York
Guest
Adam York

Welsh connection or not I thought this a v.poor film,It v.much lacks the innovation of Blade Runner and is v.rooted in contemporary multiplex world of big bangs and crudity.Good sc-fi might well tell you a lot about the world around you,or frighten you as per Children of Men but borrowing original settings without a decent story was poor.

Teilo
Guest
Teilo

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the review- my brother went to see the film last week – and I look forward to seeing it. I will watch it in a Cinema in Wales. This film and many other cultural products although maybe not made in Wales are cultural artifiacts of our time, it’s part of the cultural fabric and cultural language of Wales, do the numerous reviewers in England not review a film because it’s not made in England or that other reviews of the same film will appear elsewhere? Ignoring something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Interesting… Read more »

Tomos Jones
Guest
Tomos Jones

To those questioning a review of the new blade runner film, I suggest you shouldn’t give a f*** and enjoy the website for what it is – extremely well written content and debate.

BoiCymraeg
Guest
BoiCymraeg

If Aaron wants to publish excellent reviews I am sure there are many other places he could do that. The point about focusing on Welsh specific content is that it has few other outlets. It’s not ghettoising for the site to have an editorial policy and to prioritise certain kinds of article – which indeed the welcome page states it will. The point about English reviewers is correct, but you are cnfusing the identity of the reviewer with that of the outlet. Of course a Welsh reviewer needn’t focus only on Welsh material, and if Aaron had put his review… Read more »

Lyn Thomas
Guest
Lyn Thomas

I have to disagree with some of the comments here. I welcome broader articles of interest, such as this review. While the principle focus of this site should be on Wales and Wales related items there is room for a wider prospective including things that are happening in Wales, such as film reviews of films being shown in Wales. Quality reporting and reviews can only enrich the site. Making it just polemic will only appeal to the converted.

Cynan
Guest
Cynan

I wholeheartedly agree. As a proud Cymro, I was almost relieved to see this film review on Nation; after all, us Cymry are not all politics, politics, politics (well, maybe some are) and are also influenced by film, art, and music that do not necessarily relate directly with Cymru. Blade Runner also happens to be one of my favourite films and I absolutely loved this sequel. Great review, Aaron, thank you for enriching this great website.

BoiCymraeg
Guest
BoiCymraeg

I’ve said several times that I don’t think the site should only feature political material.