189. Blade Runner 2049

★★★★

It might not be better than the original, but Blade Runner 2049 is the single most satisfying storytelling experience you’ll have this year. Not just at the movies but anywhere, TV, theater, you name it. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it’s better than Hamilton. That also requires me having to have seen Hamilton to make that claim legitimate, but I’m confident that when I eventually do, Blade Runner 2049 will still hold up.

Everything is interconnected, everything weaves together seamlessly. No character or motive or piece of dialogue or marvelously-designed, cyberpunk background isn’t utilized to its full potential. Everything has motive, everything has purpose, a fully-realized arc that curves and turns exactly at the right moments. The script is phenomenal, the direction impeccable, and while some performances are greater than others, they all add up to a beautiful neo-noir, Sci Fi masterpiece.

Ryan Gosling plays Officer K, a Blade Runner who has been tasked with uncovering the truth behind a strange development with a couple of replicants. It isn’t well until the second act that his investigation leads him to Deckard, the iconic former detective from the first film, who holds the answers. The strange development poses a threat to both  Wallace, a brilliant designer of replicants played by Jared Leto, and Lieutenant Joshi, a veteran LAPD official who knows just how dangerous this development can be for the world.

Everyone has stakes and something they’re driving for in this story. Gosling is good as Officer K but Ford is wonderful as Deckard, masterfully showcasing a broken “man” at the edge of his life. Leto channels his anti-Joker for Wallace, giving his character a zen-like calm but also a burning, inner-ferocity. And Ana de Armas is tantalizing as Joi, an artificial girlfriend to K. The single best performance, though, is by Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, a subordinate, lovingly-serving replicant to Wallace who is both professional and pulverizing, inciting action and furor with every scene she’s in. Hoeks is a destructive force to be reckoned with, and through her is the film able to evolve to a higher level of greatness.

This story and these characters wouldn’t been brought to life without the prophetic vision of director Denis Villeneuve. It’s simply world building at its finest, with Roger Deakins’ cinematography properly showcasing every nuance and peculiarity of this decrepit, downtrodden, futuristic society. The magnificent use of lighting but still capturing shadows is brilliant. It’s like a cross between David Fincher’s Se7en and Ghost in the Shell, gritty cyberpunk, where technology has evolved to the point where it no longer benefits human civilization. Fans of Villeneuve’s Arrival will note a similarity between the score of that movie and Blade Runner, with pulsating, ominous tones setting a proper melancholic mood for the film. Johann Johannson composed Arrival, and was originally announced to have composed this Blade Runner as well before departing. Even though Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have the final credits, Johannson’s musical influence is still deeply felt.

Blade Runner 2049 is a formidable sequel because it doesn’t just answer where these characters left off but where this world left off since we last visited. Everything is well thought out and fully realized. It is everything you could ever hope for from a sequel, and everything a film possibly could be.

 

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