There are few cinematic mysteries as enduring as the questions left as the credits roll on Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult hit Blade Runner. In stepping up to answer them Scott and director Denis Villeneuve had a grand task ahead of them. Blade Runner 2049 not only answers those questions in utterly thrilling style, but builds on everything which made its forebear so magnetic. The result may be the best film you’ll see this year.
The world of Blade Runner is even more overwhelming in 2049 than when we left it. Literally building on the iconic designs and soundscapes there is the same feeling of being dwarfed, with the potential to be lost at any moment. The story, which I’ll not be spoiling here, is told through a thousand tiny moments, each as compelling as the last. Every story beat has echoes which resonate later in time to form a perfect whole. Ryan Gosling has never been better and is put to the test greatly by the role he plays.
Visually the film is unsurpassed by anything I’ve seen this year. There are frames here so beautifully composed and juxtaposed that I wanted to commit each to memory with perfect recall. Roger Deakins’ take on the shadows and electric fog of Scott’s world is astonishing in its variety and scale. From brutalist wastelands to the cities which look again like collapsed galaxies, in which every star could be the beginning of a drone strike, there is an intoxicating richness.
It plays with memory and recall, warns against the dangers of nostalgia and is confident enough to ask us questions which have no answer. This is intelligent sci fi on a grand scale. From the first frame to the last we are engaged and switched on – what every film strives for.
Under Villeneuve’s hand this is a virtuoso piece of storytelling which evolves the compelling ideas of the original. It sends a thousand volts down the line between what is human and artificial. I love it when a film is smarter than I am, and respects the audience rather than toys with it. Villeneuve, Scott and screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green plough deep into the fertile ground of the source material, even taking Philip K Dick’s original question to task before leading us to a devastating and satisfying conclusion.
It takes a vision and an ability few possess to take us back into a world locked in time and make it feel like brave and new. Make no mistake. Blade Runner 2049 is a triumph. As good as you want to be, and better than you could have expected.