‘Blade Runner 2049’: An art house film masquerading as a blockbuster

Fuck you, box office numbers!

When Blade Runner 2049 ended and the credits rolled, I was ready to watch it again. I didn’t want to leave the brilliantly crafted world of visionary director Denis Villenueve.

That’s how good this movie is. A sequel made for a reason and executed in a way that makes you want to watch the 1982 original with a fresh palette and wonder about the years in between and how they connect to to this new adventure, but also creating an entirely new and highly invigorating world to dive into.

The story picks up in California in 2049, with a younger blade runner named K (Ryan Gosling) tying up old loose ends for a new boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright, appearing in everything these days). Times have changed since Rick Deckard vanished 35 years ago. After the blackout wiped everyone out, a new manufacturer named Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) is bio-engineering new replicants-and doing so with more sinister plans, causing K and Joshi to work in between the lines of good and bad intentions.

When a dark secret is brought to light by K that could change the game, he enlists the help of Deckard to bring down the bad guys. What follows is a good old fashioned adventure-and one with a huge functioning brain.

Villenueve was initially cautious about touching Ridley Scott’s world, but was convinced by Hampton Fancher’s story, and I can see why. Together with Michael Green, Fancher has found a way to blend the leaks from the original film into a complete modern tale that is highly entertaining and smart. A perfect playground for the French-Canadian director.

Here is a movie with style and substance, carrying no need to lean on one or the other over a running that reaches 160 minutes yet never feels tired or worn. You start out with Gosling’s K doing cleanup work around a frozen landscape that looks like the wasteland of an expired world and follow his work. He is our compass for the rest of the film, slowly screwing in a light bulb that reveals the corruption around him, while creating excitement for the audience.

There are other plot strings that dangle and more than a few surprises, but I will let you enjoy those when they come. The less you know with Blade Runner 2049 going in, the better.

It helps that the cinematic sous chefs working on this movie are top notch. Blade Runner 2049 is visually stunning and carries the best soundtrack of the year. The sound is a blend of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s abilities, creating a punk rock noir that elevates several scenes. Christopher Nolan’s go to world creator, Roger Deakins, takes Villenueve’s grand vision and turns it into a gorgeous rendering of futuristic intrigue.

Gosling was Villenueve’s only choice to play K, and I can see why. He is a highly intuitive actor with movie star skills. He can handle the action sequences that are wisely layered into the movie-and carry the quieter dialogue driven scenes. Gosling is a master of making a lot out of a little, as evidenced by Only God Forgives and Drive.

Ford puts in great work, resurrecting Deckard with a wit that only suits an actor trying on old shoes that still slip on easy. He shares a good rapport with Gosling and the two actors share a striking resemblance, bringing to mind Brad Pitt and Robert Redford in Tony Scott’s Spy. Working with lesser screen time than the original, Ford puts in better work in 2049.

While the male leads are great, the real scene stealers in Blade Runner 2049 are the women. Sylvia Hoeks and Ana de Armas give breakout performances as a pair of women who make K’s life harder and easier at once. Hoeks is a force of nature as Wallace’s right hand woman while Armas makes the screen bleed with hope as K’s love interest. Bautista has a good cup of coffee Sapper Morton, a small role that plays a big role in the movie. His scene with Gosling (as teased in the trailer) is explosive.

It’s hard to pass over the little things that make Blade Runner 2049 a delight. The sounds that accompany every scene. The shots that the crew get. The brooding performances of the males with the ferocity of the female actresses. This is exactly why you go to the movies: to be entertained, but also see something special that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

The true MVP here is Villenueve, who simply can’t miss behind the camera no matter how big of a gamble he takes. You can add Blade Runner 2049 to the hitlist with Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival. In each film, which takes place in a different time, Villenueve creates a distinct world that gives the story and actors the right amount of space to work in.

Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of my favorite films of the year and a movie I would happily watch a couple more times. There’s so much meat on the bone of this cinematic porterhouse. Buy a ticket, sit back, and take a ride into the future on the assured freeway of Villenueve.


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