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Review by Tom Cooney
When I initially heard the news that we would be getting a sequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner after 35 years, I was slightly nervous. Living in a world saturated by sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots, my mind immediately conjured the ensuing Blade Runner franchise that would inevitably be hitting cinemas for the next ten years. Then I saw that the film was being helmed by Denis Villeneuve. How could the man responsible for the likes of Prisoners and Arrival simply churn out a vapid money-making machine? And of course, the film couldn’t be further from it – Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best sequels ever made.
Undeniably, the most striking aspect of Villeneuve’s film is Roger Deakins’ cinematography. Oscar-nominated for the likes of Fargo, Skyfall and The Shawshank Redemption, the living-legend has truly outdone himself here. Blade Runner 2049 is imbued with a plethora of dynamic locations, ranging from the neon metropolis of futuristic LA to the burnt-orange vista that homes Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard.
Having style can never substitute for substance however, but Blade Runner 2049 thankfully hits the mark elsewhere. The film’s plot does warrant its almost-three-hour runtime, with its steady pace incorporating character after character, slowly drip-feeding the audience its surprises and revelations. Despite this, Villeneuve does allow certain scenes to continue for longer than they should, considering that there are elements of both plot and character that can feel underdeveloped. It’s a stylistic decision on his part, and while these scenes are fascinating to watch unfurl, there will undoubtedly be many movie-goers dissatisfied by the pacing.
But how could an audience remain dissatisfied when they have Harrison Ford reprising yet another of his iconic roles? His turn as the more reclusive Deckard is an exciting one, as Ford conjures the emotional complexity found in Scott’s original. …2049 does make us wait for the man’s grand return though, with Ryan Gosling’s K being the undisputed lead here. He is an understandably muted character, but Gosling can’t help but sparkle with subtle charisma. Despite such star turns, Villeneuve’s leading men are certainly not the only characters worth mentioning. Robin Wright, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks give life to some of the most thrilling roles sci-fi has seen in years – Hoeks outshining Jared Leto’s villain with a terrifyingly sinister turn.
Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best films of 2017 thus far, with character, plot and eye-poppingly good cinematography forming the body and soul of Denis Villeneuve’s tour de force. It’s another notch on his already impressive belt, cementing the man as one of the great directors to emerge from the 21st Century. The last thing modern cinema needs is another franchise, but if they can make them like this, I’m sure there’s room for one more.