Denis Villeneuve astounds with a film that easily deserves to stand in the foot steps of an all time classic.
The original Blade Runner became such an important film because of how it managed to defy its own context and represent some of the vital discussions of the generations who grew up watching it. Deckard’s story painted a world that was dystopian and damaged, yet idyllic enough that we have arguably taken great strides towards it in the real world ever since. Whilst it’s far too soon to tell, it’s not hard to get the feeling from 2049 that Villeneuve has achieved with this sequel, a film of similar cultural impact, which will contribute to the zeitgeist far beyond its release.
Blade Runner 2049 is a film school’s wet dream. It’s main characters and story are a masterpiece of subtext and structure. It wants the audience to draw their own conclusions and it starts to provide the material by which to do so from very early on. As a result, by the end of it’s slow, tense (and nearly three hours long) burn the average audience member will be throwing out hypothetical what if’s like there’s no tomorrow.
Luckily this is also not a rare case of substance over style in fact to some extent they are one and the same. The film is bursting with visual nods to themes and concepts that, as well make the film look beautiful, add to the huge level of depth that is being aiming for with the films narrative. It’s about Slavery and racism, but it’s also Slavery and entertainment, identity and self in a digital age, creationism and playing god and it doesn’t stop there. it’s capitalism versus revolution, it’s nostalgia versus progressiveness, The deeper you read into it the deeper the themes you will find, it’s a very rare film in that it doesn’t stop at a certain level, it has something to offer to every level of its audience.
Technically everything 2049 has to offer is at the top of it’s game. The sound track is equal parts emotive and eye melting, it’s performances are Oscar Worthy in almost every case and the visuals are of an equally high calibre. Villeneuve deserves incredible praise for his vision and stylistic approach to the film but so too does every team who brought it to life so convincingly.
But technique is only as good as the narrative allows it to be and the personal story in this film is as good as it gets. The audience’s disbelief is perfectly suspended, the film is always smarter than you but it always makes you feel like the smartest person in the room and it’s all paced perfectly (a perfect example of the Bait, switch and resolve technique). On top of all this, away from the more personal narrative, there is a deep, multilayered and intense story about a world, it’s context and the people within it. Blade Runner 2049 is very much a caricature of our own society, with many of the same debates, conflicts and underlying tensions. And all of this weaves together and functions seamlessly as one whole. The story of the world is the story of the characters and visa versa, the level of storytelling (both visual and traditional) on display is truly stunning.
Blade Runner 2049 is not a film, it’s a dystopian neon tinged painting, it’s a deeply satisfying novel, it’s a Vangelis inspired orchestral suite, it’s a dissection of life, technology and society all presented in 24 frames a second. The word Epic is used a lot these days but usually it’s to sell films, to encourage audiences that this film will be epic and filled with action and explosions. Blade Runner is slow, patient and profound, epic in the truest sense, not because of its ability to overwhelm the senses, but its ability to overwhelm with ideas and possibilities. This is Blade runner is not a film, it’s an example of what film can be.