Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):
Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to the 1982 movie Blade Runner, and takes place thirty years after the original. It’s a continuation of the story, and ties back to the original in an interesting way. It’s a long film (2 hours 44 minutes) that moves at a glacial pace, but the premise is deep, and worth the time. Good writing and stunning visuals make this a must-see for fans of the original movie, but it provides enough detail that it stands on its own, for everyone else. Highly recommended. The film is rated R for violence.
Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)
As we knew from the first film, Replicants are artificial humans created as slave labor for humans, mainly for use in colonizing other planets. They had a limited life span (4 years) because they became uncontrollable after a time. Since that time, there was an uprising, and a great loss of historical data was lost. The old Tyrrell corporation went bankrupt, but after the uprising, another company came along to refine replicants. Around that time, some were created without a lifespan, and after the uprising was put down, most were terminated, but some escaped.
Enter K (Ryan Gosling). He’s a newer replicant that is controlled by the Wallace Corporation, and he has become a Blade Runner for the police. He’s tracking down and terminating the last of the runaways, and in the process, has found a strange anomaly that he can’t understand. It turns out he’s discovered something that has the potential to cause another upheaval, and he’s been assigned to find a resolution to the situation. Naturally, it’s not that simple.
This is an amazing film. It captures the essence of the original and fleshes it out even more. Newer concepts are introduced, and the societal implications are big, but not completely explained. In the original, director Ridley Scott made the public scenes realistic, flooding them with a sense of reality that is rare to see on film. The sequel does the same, and in a much better fashion than the most recent Ghost In The Shell movie. Everything that happens flows in a logical manner, and not just visually, but emotionally, as well.
Ryan Gosling’s performance is cold and calculating, but his job in the film is to be that way. He’s one of those actors who maintains a similar tone in his performance throughout a movie, almost dispassionately. He doesn’t emote well, but for this role, it suits the character. He does have moments where he lashes out, but he has a way of maintaining his demeanor throughout. Here, it works.
There are many characters in the film, and each one of them is on screen long enough for you to really get a sense of who and what they are. It’s a trivial thing to have, but makes the movie more fulfilling.
I won’t elaborate about the story, but I will say that there were a couple of surprises in it. Some bits, like the character development I mentioned, are rather secondary to the plot, but really enhance the movie. Some of them are things that most movies would just gloss over, but here, they spend enough time letting them play out that you accept rather than question. There were no Deus Ex Machina moments in the film, and that was a huge relief. In my opinion, the slow plodding speed of the movie really helps you absorb it. Rapid pacing would ruin the effect.
I’ll also note that the soundtrack ( by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) was an homage to the original film, borrowing from it rather heavily. It hit the right tone, mostly very powerful, but somehow was a little lacking, and felt more incidental than specifically memorable.