REVIEW: ‘Blade Runner’s’ Return Is Remarkable

There have been a lot of sequels lately that have revisited properties that were long left dormant, including “Jurassic World,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Creed.” This sequel to the 80s cult classic “Blade Runner,” though, might be the best one yet.

The new “Blade Runner” takes place 30 years after the original, hence the title. Replicants, the bioengineered humans that were featured in the original, are once again present in the movie and this time more integrated into society. The main example of this is the movie’s protagonist, K (Ryan Gosling). K is a replicant who works for the Los Angeles Police Department and is tasked with hunting down older replicant models.

In his latest investigation, K discovers a clue that relates to events in the first film. As a result, K is sent down a rabbit hole where he finds out information that could change the entire world.

When looking up “2049,” an immediate thing that can jump out at people is the runtime, which clocks in at two hours and 43 minutes. Fear not, despite being a rather long flick, the new “Blade Runner” doesn’t wear out its audience.

While the lengthy runtime isn’t felt, though, it’s not because the movie is fast paced. It’s actually the opposite, “Blade Runner 2049” is an absolute slow burn, but it’s executed so well and everything’s made to be so interesting that it can keep an audience hooked.

The film gives itself time for things to unravel and for the experience of what’s going on to really sink in for the viewer. This works both for the detective/investigation aspect as well as the fantastic character arc that K goes on.

The latter is especially key, because while the detective aspect makes things interesting, it’s K’s character arc that really bring up the emotional side and explores aspects of humanity.

Additionally, there is a major turn that takes place related to K that makes things more unpredictable and really puts the movie on another level.

What makes the story elements really come together is Gosling, who plays his character similar to how he portrayed the lead character in 2011’s “Drive.” As a replicant, Gosling is stoic and at first glance is quite robotic. This, of course, works for the character, especially in the first act. As the movie goes along, though, Gosling’s performance becomes more layered.

Even as his character maintains a level of composure, it’s apparent by Gosling’s performance that K is dealing with emotional turmoil and is questioning his future and who he really is.

What really completes Gosling’s character, though, is his AI girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) who exists in a holograph form. At first, it seems like she’s just a computer program, but as the film goes along, it becomes apparent that K and Joi have a very real, endearing relationship.

Armas gives a very heartfelt performance and her character never feels artificial, which in turn makes the relationship between her and K work. This furthers the exploration of what’s artificial and what’s human, which is integral to the film itself.

Other great cast members include Sylvia Hoeks as another replicant named Luv, Robin Wright as Police Lietenant Joshi and Jared Leto who portrays the picture’s antagonist Niander Wallace. Regarding Wallace, Leto’s performance at times does come across at somewhat pretentious, but for the most part it works. Additionally, the character Wallace sees himself almost as a god-like figure, and that attitude is sold rather well by Leto.

It also merits mention that Harrison Ford appears in the film. However, it is a disservice to describe much about him being here, the more unaware an audience walks in the better. Be assured, though, that Ford’s work is solid.

Credit also has to go toward the crew on the technical end of this flick. The great Roger Deakins, for example, worked on the film and it shows; the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. The film is so well shot and it helps that the production design is wonderful, too. Plus, the sound work was phenomenal, everything was so crisp and clear and it helped the experience become more immersive.

The runtime of “Blade Runner 2049” can be a bit off putting to some and Leto’s performance was a bit much at times. For the most part, though, the new “Blade Runner” works very well. 4.8 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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