Review: Blade Runner 2049

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) is celebrated as one of the best sci-fi films ever made. The story takes place in the dystopian future of 2019. This future includes bioengineered humans, flying cars, slave labor, and humans living on off-world colonies.

It’s been 35 years since Blade Runner dazzled audiences. Thankfully, director Denis Villenueuve (Enemy, Sicario) is behind the camera for the long awaited sequel – Blade Runner 2049.

It’s hard to describe a plot that’s drizzled in spoilers. Here’s the best non-spoiler explanation:  It’s a detective story focused on K (Ryan Gosling), a Blade Runner for LAPD. After retiring a Replicant, K makes a discovery on the property. The secret he uncovers leads to a race between LAPD and the reconstructed Tyrell Corporation, led by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), to find out exactly what K’s discovery means.

Unlike 1982’s Blade Runner2049 doesn’t move at a snail’s pace (sorry Blade Runner fans). It’s still very much a follow-the-bread crumbs detective story, but this time there’s an ample amount of action and eye-popping sci-fi to keep audiences hooked.

Ryan Gosling is great as K. He’s perfect as a man on a mission, hell bent on doing his job and getting answers. Gosling does what he does best – give a great performance with very little dialogue and tons of face acting. He might be the best at it.

Hands of Stone’s Ana de Armas is fantastic as Joi. She’s the perfect companion for K because she helps keep him grounded and gives a hyper-focused character, like K, something to care about. Something other than his mysterious case that’s quickly consuming him.

Sylvia Hoeks gives the best performance as Luv, Wallace’s very skillful assistant. Hoeks is tremendous and steals every scene she’s in. She does everything asked of her from the brutal action scenes, to the deeply emotional ones. There’s a scene where Luv is in the background during one of Wallace’s creepy monologues and she’s having an emotional response to what’s happening in front of her. Hoeks is able to convey everything Luv is feeling without having to say a single word. She’s incredible

Bigger than the plot and bigger than the performances is how well the film is shot.  Cinematographer Roger Deakins continues to be a master behind the camera. He uses his talents to bring you into the Blade Runner world – every color, the use of shawdows and light and dark contrast, the texture, and the weather changes.  Some of the wide shots of Los Angeles in 2049 and its surrounding areas are breathtaking. The stills shots look like futuristic paintings. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be Deakins first Academy Award win.

One of the most breathtaking visuals is a transition from a fire to the building lights of a downtown building. It’s not just that it’s an incredible visual transition; the way it transitions immediately sucks the viewers in to whatever is happening. It’s an incredibly beautiful film; you could almost watch it with no dialogue.

Denis Villenueuve continues to be one of the best directors working today. Villenueuve has another hit on his hands. He could reboot Smurfs and I’d be there opening day to watch.

Blade Runner 2049 is a visual masterpiece and one of the best films of the year. It’s a fitting sequel the same way Mad Max: Fury Road was a fitting sequel decades after the last film.  2049 is what you’d want from a Blade Runner sequel. It manages to be familiar and also brings in new elements to keep the story fresh. It’s better than the original because it has none of the issues that make the make the original boring and it includes that type of universe expansion fans would want to see in a sequel.

Grade: A-