Review: Blade Runner 2049

Easily sidling in as one of the most technically lavish, jaw droppingly stunning works in production design, effects and photography, Blade Runner 2049 oozes style and filmic craft par excellence. Near every frame is a sumptuous display as it moves through its 160 minute runtime. A visual smorgasbord yet a narrative lean cuisine.

There is no doubt the Denis Villeneuve is Hollywood’s it-boy as he moves from project to project garnering acclaim and increasing his sense of daring. From Incendies, Sicario, Prisoners, and Arrival, the man is fearless in stretching the possibilities in what you can do in filmic storytelling. To take on the challenge of doing the sequel to a 30 something brooding sci-fi classic like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner took some cahunas and, from a film making point of view, he scores big time here on near all counts.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography will guarantee him the Oscar in 2018, and the film should do the Mad Max: Fury Road trick and absolute dominate the production design, visual effects, sound effects, sound editing, and hair & make up categories (Sorry, Dunkirk, you’ve been bodyslammed). All of it deserving, seriously, the film is stunning to look at and immerse yourself in.

In a preamble slide before the session, Villeneuve himself requested not to reveal the plot of the film so audiences can experience as we did. To that end I will skip over it comprehensively without revealing anything major.

It’s 2049 in an alternate Los Angeles where Blade Runner K (Ryan Gosling) is tasked with the mission of ‘retiring’ old replicant models. On a routine mission he uncovers something….

With all its visual majesty (and an overbearing booming Hans Zimmer score) where Blade Runner 2049 trips up slightly is in its narrative. Whilst it certainly does have an interesting premise, it doesn’t justify the exorbitant length of the film.

The film is at its scintillating best when it ruminates on existence, asking bold questions around artificial intelligence that values life more than humanity. When it dalliances with inter-technological relationships, it truly shines and is wholly engaging.

When it flitters with a more traditional action thriller motif, it works to lesser extent and becomes confused. There’s a gaping imbalance in screen time between the key protagonists with the nefarious elements criminally under serviced.

As a sensory stylistic experience Blade Runner 2049 is an extraordinary achievement. It’s a worthy sequel to the classic sci-sfi game changer.