“Do androids dream of electric sheep?” It’s a question for the sci-fi ages, one that continually earns mileage in the genre as the concept of artificial beings having their own feelings is something often explored. One of the greatest examples of a film questioning this notion is arguably Ridley Scott’s 1982 neo-noir effort ‘Blade Runner’, and Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious sequel continues to contemplate this idea in a sober, understated fashion that easily bleeds into the aesthetic of the original.
As requested by both the reps of Sony Pictures and director Villeneuve himself, nothing remotely intricate regarding ‘Blade Runner 2049’s plot will be outlined in my review, and not that I am in the business of spoiling story details anyway, but entering this film with as little knowledge as possible ultimately enhances the experience.
Going off what is essentially outlined in the film’s trailer, ‘2049’ focuses on K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner – a term to describe officers tasked with hunting down rogue androids – whose search to uncover his own destiny leads him to the reclusive Deckard (Harrison Ford), one of the original blade runners who now lives isolated from the corrupt Los Angeles cityscape.
As vague as that description is, it’s all you’re going to get as the deliberately stunted pace Villeneuve has adopted in telling this story assists in highlighting a tense urgency that underlays a story that’s far more thought provoking than it is reliant on needless action. ‘Blade Runner’ with consistent action this film is not, so any modern audiences unversed in the structure of the original best be on guard that ‘2049’ is a philosophical piece, and requires more patience than one may expect; that’s a detail I can indulge you with.
One aspect of ‘2049’ that will be universally acknowledged however is the stunning work from cinematographer Roger Deakins. Whatever your personal thoughts on the film may be, its visuals are undeniably sumptuous with every scene proving a marvel to the eye. Muted and shadowy one moment, vibrant and colourful the next, Deakins has truly outdone himself with ‘2049’s pallet, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another in his profession more worthy for the Academy Award in the cinematography field next year.
As for the plethora of talent Villeneuve has assembled, all are uniformly sublime, with Gosling once again perfecting the art of silent subtlety with a performance that relies on quiet stillness just as much as inner turmoil; the camera loves the man’s face with his eyes suggesting the heft of pain being internally carried by a character unsure of himself. Harrison Ford is essentially an older, more cynical version of his ‘Blade Runner’ character – meaning he nails the grizzly, angry demeanour Deckard adopts – and Jared Leto, perhaps the one piece of casting that drew the most criticism, proves acceptably unnerving in a small but pivotal role that binds much of the story’s strongest strands together.
As male dominated as the film appears to be though, the female characters on hand prove just as impressive, if not more so, with Robin Wright effortlessly stern as K’s icy superior, Sylvia Hoeks utterly terrifying as an android with a penchant for brutality, and Ana de Armas simply enchanting in a stand-out turn as K’s companion.
Likely to be a conversationalist piece for cinema goers, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ has the potential to divide audiences as it refuses to pander to mainstream sensibilities. It’s a serious and striking piece of work without question, but its pacing and often ambiguous nature will test viewers unaware of the original’s structure.
Blade Runner 2049 is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer below: