Blade Runner 2049 – Spoiler free review

Blade Runner 2049 review

Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Certificate 15

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

How do you follow one of the biggest cult films of all time? When tackling a sequel to Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece about an android detector hunting near perfect replicants, the answer was leave well alone. The story had been told. The box office returns had been hugely disappointing, but over the years it made its money back via re-releases and assorted cuts.

Then, around five years ago, the rights were up for grabs, and it looked like Ridley would direct. But while he was busy with Alien Covenant, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (maker of stunning trio Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival) was wisely hired to tell the next chapter in the saga of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

Ryan Gosling is superb as Officer K, a Blade Runner retiring (killing) more replicants while reporting to Robin Wright’s police chief Lieutenant Joshi. But it’s not long before he’s investigating a riddle wrapped in an enigma after an opening showdown with Dave Bautista’s formidable antagonist.

That’s the thing with this movie. It’s so full of spoilers that I daren’t reveal too much about anyone or anything for fear of giving the game away.

So as K embarks on his mission, blind replicant creator Wallace (Jared Leto) makes his moves like expert chess player Tyrell from film one (who he’s clearly modelled on).

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

The rest of the cast is excellent, from Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks, to Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James and Bautista. Nobody gives a bad performance and master lensman Roger Deakins creates some of the most beautiful images you’ll see this decade.

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

Unlike The Dark Tower, which shed a bright spotlight on its nods to Stephen King’s other work, references to the original Blade Runner and author Philip K Dick are far more subtle. A pot boiling on a stove might be just that, as could a wasp on a hand, or they could be integral references to Deckard’s interrogation of Rachael in the original.

The audio references are also a treat for obsessives like me. A familiar electronic hum here, a nostalgic whir there. And then there’s the soundtrack. Topping Vangelis’s masterful original score was futile, but Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s booming chords and notes offer a flavour of its predecessor without them sounding like a tribute band.

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

There are at least two great cameos, one created with CGI which slips into the realms of uncanny valley.

There are times when the whole thing reminds me of Tron Legacy, another relatively recent sequel to a cult eighties classic. The difference here is a great story which twists and turns brilliantly. An obvious development early on becomes more complex as things develop. Thankfully I feel one step behind the storytellers instead of 10 steps ahead.

And the finale when it arrives after two and a half hours is near perfect. Or it would have been if the cinemaoger on our row hadn’t ruined the moment with his lit up phone. To be fair he had popped down to tell the staff to turn the lights off after five minutes of a semi-ruined intro, and the couple behind me who decided to talk through the next 10 minutes were polite enough to shut up for the rest of the movie once I asked them.

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

This won’t be for all tastes. The movie really takes its time, the polar opposite of popcorn tentpole movies which aim for the lowest common denominator. Those vistas are superb, with huge electronic billboards (including references to a French car company and the long defunct Pan Am).

Like the original, the mood is also spot on. It has a smoky, late night jazz feel which sets up proposed sequels without feeling contrived. The second act could have been tighter, but that ending, like the original, is a terrific, poetic closing chapter to a bigger story. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 35 years to see it.

8/10

My vlog review

Advertisements

Arrival – Movie Review

When a dozen shell like spacecraft arrive over key locations around the world, linguistics expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads a team of investigators.

 

Arrival is many things. A love story, an alien invasion flick, a study of grief and longing, and a drama about communication all rolled into one. 
What it actually is is revealed in the final minutes and packs one of the biggest emotional punches of the year. Though punch is too strong a word. It’s more of a tap, hitting part of your soul that resonates. 

Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner are always great and here they offer a solid emotional anchor to a project that could have floated away like the dozen ships at the heart of the movie. 


The scenes of human-alien interaction cleverly take place in an arena that looks like a movie theatre with no seats. We relate to the heroes witnessing what looks like a giant interactive movie. There are echoes of Torchwood’s ETs, only more benign, or are they?

After his powerhouse dramas Prisoners and Sicario, Denis Villeneuve has struck gold again, delivering a compelling tale with an aptly alien score. 

Some movies signpost their messages a while in advance but this takes its time revealing the heart-rending core of its tale. 

I left the theatre with a deep sense of melancholy and empathy. Yes it’s a film that has a start, middle and end, but not how you might think. 


Though marketed as an Independence Day-style thriller, it’s really an art house movie, more reminiscent of Under the Skin and Day the Earth Stood Still than the less commercial, cerebral movie it is. Like all the best films, such as Lost in Translation and Eternal Sunshine, this lingers long after the credits have rolled.

Obviously it’s not perfect. A ticking clock plot twist feels contrived, and those responsible seem brushed under the carpet too easily, but it’s not a deal breaker. When the key to the third act’s denouement comes it feels right given the context. 

There are inevitable comparisons with Contact, Jodie Foster’s 1997 sci-fi epic which involved a female protagonist, aliens, subterfuge and big ideas, but that was let down by a cop out finale which looked like it belonged in a Bounty advert. This avoids such pitfalls.

A repeat viewing is almost essential. 
My passion for Blade Runner 2 has been building for years, and given Villeneuve’s track record so far, I doubt he’s going to drop the ball with that sequel.  

Sicario – A Review

Sicario is one of the best films of 2015, a taut, compelling, beautifully lensed thriller about the hunt for a crimelord.
That’s it. Though for the first half it seems to be so much more. It’s also a Trojan horse of a movie, making you believe that Emily Blunt’s FBI officer heroine Kate Mercer is the main character when in fact it’s Benicio Del Toro’s duplicitous protagonist or antagonist that knits the movie together. 

Josh Brolin is terrific as the government agent who acts as a bridge between Blunt and DelToro, while Harry Enfield’s old colleague Daniel Kaluuya is on fine form as Blunt’s colleague. 

  

The ominous score by Johann Johansson is filled with slow building menace, while Roger Deakins’ photography is stunning. 

See it on a big screen and then wait for the obligatory Golden Globe nods. 

One of the best things about it is the fact it’s a real drama, not some advert for a video game, or a franchise launching adventure. Nor is it a vanity project. It has meat on its bones and sustains the interest from start to end. 

On the strength of this, director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2 cannot come soon enough. Given the fact his work on Prisoners was outstanding, it’s good to see him go from strength to strength.