Here’s where I stood before going into this movie. I haven’t seen the original Blade Runner but I’m a huge fan of director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario). I’m thinking that most of you probably haven’t seen the original either, so hopefully this review will shed some light on how likely it is that you’ll enjoy this sequel.
It’s the year 2049. There are artificial androids in the world called replicants, which have actually been made illegal since some of them rebelled against their owners. There are cops tasked with hunting down these illegal replicants, called Blade Runners. This movie stars Ryan Gosling as our lead, who stumbles upon a mystery that he is driven to find out the answer to. He’s a lonely guy, his only love is a holographic girlfriend played by Ana de Armas (War Dogs). His supervisor (Robin Wright) sends him on a series of missions which eventually leads him to another retired Blade Runner (Harrison Ford).
The star of this movie is the cinematography, with some absolutely breathtaking moments choreographed by one of the best cinematographers working today Roger Deakins (who also worked with Villeneuve on Sicario). The colors are vibrant and bold and the world is expertly crafted, likely a shoe in for Deakins to get the Best Cinematography award (which he’s been nominated for 13 times but never won).
These incredible visuals are paired with some amazing music as well, making this foreign future come to life with strange harmonies and tones, both simple on paper but expertly executed.
This world is inhabited by intriguing characters, with Ryan Gosling delivering an incredible performance, proving again that he’s one of the best in the business these days. He’s calm and calculated but when he shows emotion, it’s heart-wrenching. The other standout is Ana de Armas who plays his lover, though she only exists as a hologram. This movie manages to make you feel connected to her in a way that totally works. Harrison Ford is great but his role is fairly minimal, only showing up after the 2 hour mark in a movie that’s nearly 3 hours long.
This movie impresses me but you can tell Villeneuve couldn’t bear to make many (or any) cuts to his masterpiece. At nearly 3 hours, it’s entirely too long. If the story was tight and focused, I wouldn’t mind the length, but it’s not. There are entire subplots that go nowhere, really only providing character development as opposed to plot.
Even if they couldn’t sacrifice scenes or story beats, they could’ve sped up the scenes themselves. There are many times where we just watch something happen for way too long. Gosling is browsing through computer records for five minutes or a walk down a hallway takes forever to actually get them to their destination. It could’ve been trimmed and cut and made a more efficient film.
Without seeing the original, I still had a good grasp on what was happening here. It has intriguing characters, beautiful production design and cinematography, and the music is haunting in the best of ways. The only problem is that no one showed restraint, which could have made this movie tighter and maybe more accessible to an average moviegoer. If you have the patience and want to see an incredibly realized and fascinating science-fiction world, this will do it.