After the farce of two cinematic disasters coming from the Alien Universe in recent years, it was with great trepidation that I watched the extension of Ridley Scott's other great work, Blade Runner. Can I just say: In Denis Villeneuve, I trust!!! Villeneuve does what only the most assured filmmaker can do, especially when playing in someone elses sandbox, and that is to not overplay his hand. The film grammar, world look and film score are all echoes of the original work. Where Villeneuve extends the reach of the work is in the storytelling: though a sequel, it is an evolution of the themes of the original. Where the first film examined what it meant to be human, this film looks at what defines Life, sentient life, itself. The film opens with an expository scroll down and then the introduction of "K" (Ryan Gosling) who we know within the first minute is a new type of replicant who hunts down older models, the Nexus models once built by Tyrell. These new replicants created by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) are a different breed. After the various insurrections, Replicants were banned till Wallace proved he can make them with no free will, they will follow any order. It soon becomes apparent that something else is at play and a greater mystery unfolds with the eventual collision between the events of the original Blade Runner and the new world. Villeneuve is at the top of his game. He is one of the two or three greatest visual storytellers working today. He is helped on every front by the interesting script which is written by Hampton Fancher who wrote the first script for the original Blade Runner before being famously replaced and Michael Green who has a mixed filmography of great films and complete disasters. Here we have storytellers who embrace the fundamentals of the first work but resist just telling the same story and have mapped out similarly intriguing territory. The film looks stunning under the eye of Roger Deakins, simply the finest Director of Photography there is. He has chosen a red, murky palette which mimics the dust storms which swamped Sydney, Australia in 2009 and this gives both a taste of ecological disaster and a nod to the strong choices in the original. The cast is very good across the board. Gosling who has often come across as not quite human, is perfectly cast as a replicant. However, much like Ford in the original he struggles at times in selling the pathos of his character. Ford, on the other hand, is great as the world weary Deckard. The Fordrennaisance continues as he seems to embrace his newfound maturity and freedom. The main scene stealer is Ana de Armas, who plays Joi, an Artificial Assistant who uses holograms to communicate with her owner. The rest of the cast are very good from Jared Leto to Robin Wright but the unfair comparison is to the original Blade Runner where everyone was magnificent. Throughout the film, we see examples of technology aping the human experience from dumb holograms to AI's like Joi, to replicants and they all seek something more. The film tries to define what it means to be alive: to be organic and to be able to reproduce. But, more than that – to be human is to be in awe of the Universe. To love and to cry and to be lost in the majesty of the cosmos. A machine is incapable of this. To illustrate this, Villeneuve will often show the technology on the edge of an evolution to a higher scale of consciousness and at that point it will often interact with the most primal of materials: water. Whether rain, tears or in the end scene, snow, it is at these junctures that humanity is expressed, even if only in that moment. It would be remiss to not talk about the ending. Scott invented TechNoir which borrowed the tropes of a detective novel and set them in a cyber future and that is the same here. K wonders whether he might be of a new breed of replicant, one organically reproduced, not made and in a mirror of the first the evidence for and against this conjecture hinges on the artificial memories of the replicants. I do find it more than interesting that the final scenes have both snow falling on a character and being created in a memory lab simultaneously. The implication meaning that there might be more to K then we are originally lead to believe.
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