Blade Runner 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks
Blade Runner 2049 proves to be a worthy successor to the 1982 original. Following in the footsteps of Blade Runner, Part 2 has as much of a chance to become a cult classic in the years to come. The film, set thirty years after the events of Part 1, is full of brooding intensity and intrigue. Instead of falling prey to misplaced action and fantasy sequences (which many a sci-fi film resorts to when nothing else works), Blade Runner 2049 focusses all its energy on character development and suspense.
At 2 hours and 43 minutes, it may appear to be, for all intents and purposes, a long film, but the storytelling does not disappoint. While both the acting and the visual effects are top class, it is the writing that turns out to be the overall winner in this much awaited sequel. The tricky combination of neo-noir and science fiction is handled very deftly by Denis Villeneuve’s direction. The plot, in all its complexity, can easily be treated as an allegory for race (in the film, the newest breed of replicants are employed as slaves, and are bred essentially to serve their human creators).
In 2049, modern replicants (bioengineered humans) live among humans only to serve them as slaves. K, a Nexus-9 replicant, works for the LAPD as a blade runner, and is assigned the task of retiring all rogue replicants that are still left. On one of his missions in which he eliminates a rogue replicant on a farm, he discovers a buried box containing bodily remains. On further examination at the headquarters, the remains are discovered to be of a Nexus-7 replicant who apparently died during an emergency C-section.
K’s boss, acutely aware of the consequence of the discovery (that replicants are able to reproduce), orders him to destroy the evidence before the news goes public. In his subsequent task of finding the missing child (for the purpose of retiring it), K digs deeper and deeper into the things he has taken for granted up until now. His findings throw up many inconvenient truths about himself and the situation at hand. Will he now have it in him to go ahead with his orders?
Every frame of Blade Runner 2049 works primarily on two key elements: intensity and intrigue. Those two facets keep you gripped to the story in spite of the extended running time. With K questioning everything in his world, the audience is given a chance to do the same. It is seldom a science fiction film throws so much light on all that constitutes human behaviour.
Blade Runner 2049 may be interpreted as many things – class oppression, humans attempting to establish a new order, and so on – but it is the unblinking questioning of one’s own existence (as seen in K’s case) that makes the film a truly existential pursuit. The superior writing and direction ensure that the dark-toned alternate world (presented in such technical and cinematic brilliance) does not overshadow the larger story Blade Runner 2049 represents.
Length is perhaps the only criticism I can think of, but even that hurdle is overcome by the storytelling and compelling performances. The pacing is another aspect that keeps the interest lingering throughout. I would be very surprised if Part 2 doesn’t go on to achieve great things in its own right. Good sequels are a rarity. When it comes to cult classics, they are rarer still.