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Bladerunner 2049  

Review: written 2017

An epic visual masterpiece

First off, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The memory of the original remains untarnished with this worthy sequel. Set 30 years after the original, we follow Ryan Gosling’s character, “K”, as he tracks down replicants in his role as a ‘bladerunner’. A mystery is uncovered, and it becomes increasingly clear there is only one person who may be able to unravel it – Deckard (Harrison Ford returning in the iconic role). Fans of Ford should be aware, the movie is primarily concerned with the search for Deckard, and Ford’s role is a supporting one – this is clearly the story of ‘K’, and serves both characters well in doing so.

Gosling does the role proud, convincing us of his detachment and isolation while never leaving us in any doubt where there are doubts and turmoil. As a result, the rare moments of emotional display are startlingly effective. In particular, his relationship with Joi (Ana de Armas) is completely compelling, in a story arc which is both a frightening dystopian view of the future of relationships, (reminiscent of ‘She’ with Scarlett Johanssen) and scarily prescient. The main ‘villain duties fall to Jared Leto playing the industrialist responsible for a new generation of more subservient replicants, who alas is given relatively short screen time, with the ‘heavy’ duty falling mostly to Sylvia Hoeks as his number two. Though her role works, it seems curiously underdeveloped relative to the other main protagonists.

The real star of the movie though, is the cinematography and production design. This is a stunningly realised world which expands the rainscape of the original to a variety of locations each with their own unique look, and all in keeping with the movie’s tone. The surreal desertified Las Vegas setting is truly stunning and surprising. This incredible design work has been spectacularly captured with Roger Deakin’s cinematography which is full of beautiful touches which never distract from the story, but had me audibly gasping with delight and awe.

A perfect movie then..? Almost, though if pressed I would argue it lacks the emotional resonance of some of those Shakespearean moments of the original. No ‘tears in the rain’ speech here, and the plot itself is pretty linear, juxtaposed with the intricate beauty of the design and look of the movie. And while the mood of Vangelis music is surprisingly well captured, it lacks the lyrical melodies with which Vangelis managed to imbue his electronica.

Ultimately, the most extraordinary thing about this movie is that it has managed to somehow come out from the shadow of the original – and worth considering completely on its own merit. It has its own beauty, its own tone, and its own ideas – while always honouring the grand predecessor. It’s not perfect – but then neither was Bladerunner when it came out, or Ridley wouldn’t have tinkered with it over so many versions.. but it is a glorious, beautiful thing.

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