'Blade Runner 2049' film review: Brilliant, profound & soulful sci-fi master stroke
The hype is justified: "Blade Runner 2049" (opening in theaters Oct. 6) ranks among the smartest films of 2017 and the best sequels of all time. Perfectly matching the feel and texture of the iconic 1982 original, "2049" is breathtaking and beautiful (even if it is not perfect).
In short: A young blade runner (Ryan Gosling) stumbles across a mystery that has him cross paths with former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who's been missing for thirty years. Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto also star.
"2049" is a master class on cinematic sequels and director Denis Villeneuve is on an absolute roll. "2049" is his third brilliant film in as many years - following "Sicario" and "Arrival" - and his latest is a worthy and brilliant successor to the "Blade Runner" legacy. It retains the original's patient tone without feeling like a pure clone. It builds off the established cold world of the near future and brilliantly expands the dystopian landscape in a way that feels bold and familiar. Most importantly, it takes the fundamental themes of the first film and advances them in mind-blowing, soulful new directions.
Here's a sentence that is always appropriate: Gosling is (once again) perfectly cast as the "2049" protagonist. His character swings from quietly searing to introspectively soulful. The less that is known about his character, the better - just know that his very being changes the entire dynamic of the film. Gosling's performance is defined by the small moves and gestures he makes - he elegantly expresses the inner thoughts of his character, despite not having much dialogue. The brilliance of Gosling in this role is his ability to project sincere humanity without the crutch of exposition.
Jared Leto is certainly swinging for the fences these days. Fresh off his enjoyable take on the Joker in "Suicide Squad," Leto has crafted another compelling villain: a philosophical, blind replicant manufacturer with a messiah complex. Leto infuses his character with an otherworldly creepiness that is oddly captivating and vaguely unsettling. Just wish Leto had more screen time or direct interaction with the film's main characters.
For a movie that is almost three hours long, "2049" justifies its long runtime with a plot that keeps moving. This is another futuristic noir, with a mystery with implications that could refine humanity entirely. The film's plot keeps the audience engaged - but its in the quieter moments when "2049" wanders in the abstract and thought-provoking. It explores the grey area between man and machine - where one begins and one ends. The plot addresses the physical ramifications of crossing this line, but the film's themes and musings exist entirely in this fuzzy area.
While "2049" doesn't quite match the focused and groundbreaking brilliance of the original, the sequel sure comes close. Leto's character is woefully underused and his character does not get a satisfying conclusion. A few lingering plot threads just pop up and do not get resolved entirely.
Final verdict: "2049" is breathtaking, profound and the best sci-fi film of the year. Were it not for a few mismanaged plot points, "2049" could make a strong case for one of the very best films of the year.
"Blade Runner 2049" opens in theaters nationwide Oct. 6. The sci-fi thriller has a running time of 163 minutes and is rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.