"Cinema Reel" logo. Cinema Reel is the title for Jonathon Potochnic's review column.

By Jonathon Potochnic

A cold, desolate night in the confines of an abandoned building awaits a studied detective. A created body struggles with the futility of understanding what being human means, how it differentiates one from another and what a soul could mean to someone lacking one.

The rain is palpable, indiscernible from the perspiration clinging to the hunter and more so to the hunted. What makes them different? Do the differences matter? Should the creator have power over the conscious creation? Regardless if these questions are answered or not, these are the questions of “Blade Runner”.

Ambiguity left for the audience does more than just spur the imagination. We begin making comparisons and drawing lines to the real world and even ask ourselves some of the same questions. For all its dense visual splendor and minimalistic dialogue, the thing that drives us to find the Los Angeles of “Blade Runner” so authentic is the state of the world itself. It’s a fearful one, due to the fact that it can be foreseen. It’s futuristic by comparison, but cyclic in the way of human nature.

Realism is not determined by attention to detail. Detail is just a studied stylization of setting. An accurate depiction of realism is the illustration of the sloppy and chaotic, the clashing of views and conflicts of variation. 

“Blade Runner 2049” respectfully acknowledges and trumps these original concepts while not falling into the nature of the money-grabbing sequel. This is a movie not made with numerous hints to potential sequels it hopes to commercialize, but recognizes itself as an important and mostly independent entity, save for the previous installment.

“Blade Runner 2049” is directed by the French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, who has brought audiences a masterclass selection of films in “Prisoners”, “Enemy”, “Sicario” and “Arrival”. His flare in “Blade Runner” is well felt, especially when compared to “Sicario” and “Arrival”.

That being said, the beautiful 2019 neo-futuristic world of “Blade Runner” is gracefully transposed and cleverly developed to its state in “2049”. The lucid and crowded world of the future is immaculately crafted and seamless to the viewer’s eye.  Cinematographer Roger Deakins deserves an award in hand, to put it very very mildly. This movie is one to be examined and referenced in film classes, to be envied by the greatest cinematographers and encapsulated in viewer’s hearts for decades.

The original “Blade Runner” is ranked among the classics for its challenging and profound ideas, conveying an unconventional tale in the most hard-nosed and patient of ways. It fascinates in its complexities and troubling ambiguities. “2049”, in a manner that is surprisingly respectful of the first film’s accomplishments, belittles any sense of understanding that the audience, or even the original’s characters, believes they achieved with the original’s events.

“Blade Runner” was a difficult film to master after multiple viewings and is still debated today. “Blade Runner 2049”, in every conceivable way, defies expectations. The plot twists and contorts, with motivations, relationships and memories constantly being challenged and changed. To discuss the plot would an incredible disservice to the returning group of writers for this film.

A decidedly dark road is crafted for the characters, most prominently in Hollywood’s golden boy Ryan Gosling. Gosling is an absolute knock-out, magnificently transforming the excellent screenplay’s officer “K” into a real person. Despite the world being very hard science fiction, his acting transcends the screen and his struggles become real. I was watching someone in 2049’s Los Angeles, not an actor in a movie.

But to focus on one actor is an absolute discredit to the outstanding cast. Villeneuve manages to wring out supreme performances from everyone. Everyone! Why can’t more films capture this as effectively? Ford returning as Deckard is sensational; he grounds the film as well as adds some comic relief. Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks are completely terrifying and manage to dominate every scene they appear in. The list goes on from here, and there are no imperfections. Period.

One area of concern for the film was the soundtrack. The original film’s score, spearheaded by Vangelis, is widely beloved by audiences. I was surprised then to see that this area of “2049” is sterling. The soundtrack masks the entirety of the runtime, giving “Blade Runner 2049” more personality. It’s not a carbon copy of the original, not that anyone would have minded that. It’s reminiscent of it, of course, but it’s similar to “Sicario” and even “Ex Machina”. It’s less jazz-induced and more aggressive than the first. It attacks, drags and carries us through Los Angeles, emulating the city’s heart and emotion.

Writing a review for “Blade Runner 2049” almost seems like a disservice to what Villeneuve and his crew have created. Rarely does a movie, or any form of media, nail every piece of the production to this extent. Even fewer are the movies that bring these pieces together in the most meaningful and effective way possible. The movies that are able to accomplish this achieve the timeless nature of a revered legend. “2049” is incredibly unique and important. It brings past struggles of the human condition into play and asks us to dive deeper into the motivations that drive humans. It pushes us to ask what exactly makes us human. I have never been happier or more entertained to attempt to answer such questions.

10/10. "Masterpiece". An instant provocative classic.

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