Blade Runner has always been a polarizing science fiction film. When it was released in 1982, I remember long arguments with fellow film fans. I thought it was slow but fascinating, they just thought is was boring.
Those same arguments will be likely for anyone seeing Denis Villeneuve's brilliant sequel BLADE RUNNER 2049.
Like Ridley Scott in the original version, Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners) takes his time with every frame, painting every nuance of a futuristic Los Angeles.
Ryan Gosling (La La Land, Drive) stars as Blade Runner K, still on the trail of replicants (androids) and soon pulled into a mystery that leads him on the trail to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who's been missing for the 35 year gap since the original film.
Villeneuve is one of the greatest directors working in film and he's assembled an incredible crew of filmmakers to create his world.
For nearly three hours, you are immersed in the future as K unravels mystery after mystery, following clues on a startling trail with grand scale implications for humanity and beyond.
Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) is Niander Wallace, a wealthy industrialist who is helping the world with new farming methods. He's also bought what's left of the Tyrell organization, the originator of replicants.
Robin Wright is terrific as K's boss, Dave Bautista is surprisingly good as the suspect that's the genesis of K's quest and Ana de Armis (War Dogs) is terrific as Joi, K's companion & so much more.
Like Villenueve's last film "Arrival" this is the kind of film that generates a lot of discussion and debate after viewing. I found myself thinking about the bigger themes of the film the day after and the next, as layers of the storytelling seemed to open up into "a-ha!" moments on all the ripples of the events that take place.
Harrison Ford is terrific as Deckard, hesitant to come out of hiding but ready to fight for what's right. He has some of his best acting moments in years, appearing in only the last third of the film.
Gosling is terrific, just as good in the action sequences as he is in the most still (and often revealing) scenes.
This is an incredible looking film and the sound matches the visuals in power. Roger Deakins (Skyfall, No Country For Old Men) photography is incredible. He and Villenueve are probably the best director/photography duo since David Lean and Freddie Young created the huge vistas of "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago" together. Let's hope this duo makes movies for a long time together.
I saw it in IMAX and the sound was so immersive that Hans Zimmer's score hit my in the chest before it reached my ears. It's great work from Zimmer. Everyime a car passed over head, a punch landed or a wave hit, I was IN the film. If you can see it in IMAX, it's worth every dollar.
Villeneuve always challenges me in his films with BIG topics. "Prisoners" made you think about your own morals in relation to what you would do to protect your children. 'Sicario" sunk you deep into the war on drugs and challenged everything you think you feel about right & wrong. "Arrival" told you a great aliens-are-landing story while setting up a superb storytelling twist that shatters what you know in the final moments.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a bigger film, a huge visual feast that reveals itself in a hypnotic, leisurely style. It ponders everything from origin to creation with massive full size sets and cutting edge CGI that never feels false.
Walking out, I said that it was way too slow and smart to ever be a big hit. Based on the box office numbers opening weekend, I was right, but I hope people discover it for many years.
It's an incredible experience, filled with surprises for fans of the original. It gets an A.