Film of the Week

Blade Runner 2049Last week I wrote a slightly facetious but honest piece about how few movies deserve to be over two hours. I said that I hoped Blade Runner 2049 would justify the long run time, whilst acknowledging that it's a rare film that wouldn't benefit from a harsher edit. Having now seen BR2049, I can happily announce that it earns (almost) every one of its 164 minutes. That's no easy feat.

The reason I wasn't in the first queues for this film weren't just length related but because I don't really get the whole Blade Runner thing. I only saw it for the first time earlier this year and it was, well, fine, I guess. On my TV, perhaps some of the grandeur of the cinematography was lost, and maybe the clothes and look had aged a bit, but there were other issues too. I mean, who honestly didn't know she was a replicant? It just felt like it was one of those "of its time" movies.

BR2049 can only be watched through the lens of its predecessor, but it does so much with it that it transcends just being a sequel. We open with K, played by Ryan Gosling, a blade runner on a job to eliminate one of the remaining old model replicants. There are new replicants on the scene, ones who can only obey, and they are as keen to remove the old "skinners" as the humans they work for. As in the original film, the seemingly clearcut world of the blade runner is muddied by learning more about these replicants, and K has to make a decision about where his loyalties truly lie.

To give any more away would be to spoil what is a constantly surprising film. I'm not always the quickest at working out plot points but I was genuinely caught out by some of the twists and turns of the story. Some of the ideas and imagery put me in mind of other films I love - Logan, Her, The Shining, Star Wars (I'm a Trekkie at heart but consider this artistic licence) - and it brings together these inspirations seamlessly and makes them into something greater than the sum of its parts.

What helps here is the stunning quality of Roger Deakins' cinematography. From the first scenes where we join K flying over the futuristic Californian landscape to the updated urban sprawl from the original film, each new scene, each frame, is just breathtaking. If this was what people felt in 1982 when the original came out, I finally get it. As an audience member, you're so immersed in the world that it's kind of hard to believe that it isn't true life. I came out overwhelmed, struggling to shake off the universe I'd just inhabited (It's been a good year for films that do that, by the way - I had a similar feeling of disorientation after both Dunkirk and A Ghost Story). I had not been prepared to be affected like that - it's just a science fiction film, after all - but it felt like it carried so much more with it.

I can perhaps understand why some people have been left a little cold by it. The charges of sexism do have grounds, although less than some media outlets are making out. Jared Leto is used about as well as he was in Suicide Squad, which is good or bad depending on your views on the actor. Some critics have complained that the character of K is hard to read at times, but it's entirely in keeping with who he is and is a performance that Ryan Gosling has been perfecting his whole career. Perhaps the most glowing review I can give is that, after basically three hours in the cinema, mind, I would happily have purchased a new ticket and gone straight back in. It's a masterpiece. Give Deakins the Oscar already, yeah?

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