by Ian Davies
Blade Runner 2049 is not a film for those who have not seen Ridley Scott’s seminal ’82 sci-fi touchstone. Whist those unfamiliar with it may see other works it has influenced over the past thirty five years in its neon-flooded vistas and “hard” sci-fi themes, this is very much a film that deals with legacy and identity, a rare sequel that stands as a perfect companion to its forebearer, yet cannot exist without it.
Blade Runner 2049; Director: Denis Villeneuve; USA 2017, 164 mins; Our rating: ★★★★★/5
Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is the LAPD’s go-to Blade Runner, a detective whose purpose is to “retire” replicants, synthetic humans from a previous generation who sought autonomy and freedom from the slavery forced upon them by their makers. During a fairly routine retirement, K stumbles upon a discovery that could threaten the uneasy alliance that humans and replicants find themselves in, and forces him headfirst into a confrontation between his LAPD superiors who want the discovery buried, and the Wallace corporation that grew from the ashes of Blade Runner’s Tyrell Corporation who see this as the answer to a new world.
Identity is key to this unexpected sequel, something that K struggles with as a replicant tasked with carrying out the dirty work of killing his own kind. Gosling plays the role with the icy steel we’ve come to know him for in recent years to perfection, detached in all the right ways that when his emotions do surface later on, it shocks us. What is his place in the world? It’s a journey that never feels dull, although the secrecy around the plot in the run-up to release feels somewhat overdone. When we finally encounter Harrison Ford’s Deckard in the latter half of the film, I had honestly forgotten that he was supposed to be in it, so enthralled I was in K’s investigation into a murder and ultimately himself.
Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins have created a truly beautiful film to behold, a piece of work that pays wonderful homage to its predecessor whilst continuing a story that so many of us thought had come to a natural end. It was a delight to spend time in Philip K Dick’s nightmarish, alternate Los Angeles once more and to have my faith restored in legacy sequels.