30 years after the events of Ridley Scott’s film, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a Blade Runner with the LAPD discovers a secret kept hidden for decades, a secret that could have grave consequences for humanity. Moving away from the secluded and quiet life that he lives with Joi (Ana de Armas), K finds himself searching for the truth, a search that will lead him to uncover the whereabouts of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an expert blade runner who disappeared many years ago.
With 14 films under his belt – 5 of them in the English language – it seems fair to say that director Denis Villeneuve has developed a style of his own, enough to be called Villeneuveian, and Blade Runner 2049 is a film that benefits from being seen through the Villeneuveian lens.
The casting of the film is inspired; Ryan Gosling is on rare, intense form as Officer K, and it is easy to root for him as the centre of the story. Robin Wright carries on her fantastic run of playing fascinating complex characters with Lieutenant Joshi, Ana de Armas obviously has fun with her character Joi, a woman who is devoted to K and desperate to be more than she is, and Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard, a man who has been scarred by the past and has no desire to return to the world he left behind. Jared Leto is the only one of the cast who comes out of the film less than favourably; his turn as Niander Wallace feels surplus to requirements in Blade Runner 2049, and with this being a film that is economical on dialogue, Wallace’s pontificating scenes not only feel as though they belong in another film, but manage to kill the Villeneuveian tension and pacing that has been created/
Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher is joined by Michael Green to create the world of Blade Runner 2049, and the film is certainly true to the original in tone and feel. The languid pacing of the film works under Villeneuve’s watchful eye, as this tense and slow pacing is something the director obviously strives for. There are times when it feels as though Fancher and Green’s screenplay has elements added to it that the film does not need, as well as inconsistent moments that change the film for the worse.
As director, there is little doubt that Denis Villeneuve is the right man for the job of directing Blade Runner 2049, and he brings his signature flair, intensity and style to the film. The world feels well fleshed out, and a progression of the cinematic universe we got to know in the first film, and as usual, Villeneuve draws engaging and fascinating performances from his cast. The trouble arises with the final act of the film, which gets bogged down in bringing threads of the story together, allowing the pacing and the intensity of the film to drop. Jared Leto monologuing in a dark room does not help.
In all, Blade Runner 2049 looks absolutely stunning, and definitely feels as though it is a continuation of the world and the story of the original film. However, this may be Velleneuve’s weakest film – although this does not mean it is a disaster by any stretch of the imagination – as it loses intensity, focus and pace toward the final act, and there are times when all the many elements of Blade Runner 2049 don’t quite fit together properly. Still, fans of the franchise will be happy, and there is a lot of fun to be had with Blade Runner 2049, but with it feeling flabby from time to time, perhaps a stronger edit could have made for a more engaging film.