“Blade Runner 2049” is visually stunning like nothing you’ve been before with the opaque orange sky of the industrial ravaged future Earth, and its vivid gaudy neon holographic skyline at night. Director Denis Villeneuve and Executive Producer Ridley Scott, who directed the original “Blade Runner”, are a more provocative inquiry, “What is it to be human?” At a narrative arc Ryan Gosling’s blue eyes widen welled with tears as his Replicant LAPD Officer K says, “It’s real!” K realizes that his implanted childhood memory is real. But whose is it? His?
Villenueve and cinematographer Roger Deakins’s “Blade Runner 2049” is the masterfully sublime futuristic mural that unconceals the compelling and flawed inquiry of humanity in the screenplay by Hampton Francher and Michael Green, based on the Philip K. Dick novel. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford as the returning aged Deckard are awesome.
Gosling commands as K in his profound stillness and compassion which betrays his character’s human design. He tells his LAPD superior Lt. Joshi, played by powerful Robin Wright, that being born gives one a soul. She acknowledges him, “You’ve done just fine without one.” “Blade Runner 2049” surprises, because of Gosling’s courage in finding K’s purpose, his soul. Gosling and Ford have amazing chemistry and partnership. Ford brings a world weary gravitas. K finally locates the recluse retired Blade Runner Deakard (Ford), who possesses vital information of this Replicant conspiracy and his own past. Deakard tells K, “Sometimes when you love someone, you got to be a stranger.” What is real?
Replicants are the synthetic genetically engineered humans, not born, created as the expendable workforce. In 2049 Wallace Industries assumes the production of Replicants, who are designed with great physical strength and enhanced intellectual capacity. Jared Leto plays the enigmatic blind CEO Niander Wallace. Leto has the quiet, yet malevolent enlightened air. Wallace says, “Every civilization was built on the back of a disposable workforce, but I can make only so many.” He arrogantly believes he is doing God’s work. Blade Runners like K retire or kill rogue Replicants, who are deemed dangerous. Part of K’s curse is that he too is Replicant.
“2049” opens as K tracks down Replicant agro farmer Sapper Morton, played by quiet hulking Dave Bautista. Their vicious battle reveals K’s unique strength and resilience. However, this Replicant “retirement” reveals the unheard of. There may exist, a child born of a Replicant mother. Lt. Joshi (Wright) has K pursue this investigation at Wallace Industries. K meets the forceful and beautiful Replicant Luv, played by the astonishing charismatic Sylvia Hoeks, Wallace’s executive in charge. K’s questions threaten, and Luv surmises that K must be terminated. Villeneuve eloquently orchestrates their defining conflict. Inadvertently, Luv’s reveal cues K to locate Deakard (Ford).
In the backdrop, K lives the isolated existence. His love is the sad and beautiful holographic program Joi, played by captivating Ana de Armas. Joi is the sentient program wishing to be human to be with K. This is the weakest movie narrative. The virtual ménage of K, Joi, and Replicant prostitute Mariett, strong pretty Mackenzie Davis, is more a hollow plot device than about human frailty. Too bad.
In the telling confession with Deakard and Wallace in his Zen-like lair, Wallace says to Deakard of his deceased Replicant love Rachel, “Love or mathematical precision?” What is it to be human? That gets lost at times.
As Luv, Hoek’s consumed ruthlessness, fierce intellect, and spinning sidekicks provide the formidable match for Gosling’s enduring warrior K. Luv’s purpose is self-preservation of her kind. K’s purpose is far nobler. He searches for the truth and protects those who are weaker. K may not be entirely human, yet he becomes Hero. This narrative thread and the performances make “Blade Runner 2049” special. Aside from Harrison Ford, Carla Juri stands out as the gentle brilliant orphaned Scientist who created K’s memories. She is bright light with a profound sadness.
“Blade Runner 2024” also has a sense of sadness which is its strength and poignancy. Villeneuve surprises in the end. Then we recall that even in the darkness, “Blade Runner 2024” is the Hero story of K and Deakard. Gosling and Ford give their best here, and we are thankful, the better for it.
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Originally Published on IMDb