Blade Runner 2049 movie cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks
Blade Runner 2049 movie director: Denis Villeneuve
Blade Runner 2049 movie rating: 3.5 stars
In the longing for a human connection that permeates it, Blade Runner 2049 is closer to the original Philip K Dick book than the 1982 film inspired by it. However, Villeneuve tries very hard not to stray too far from director Ridley Scott’s pathbreaking vision, dipping deep into its dystopia to add layers that perhaps the latter had no use for. While the streets of Scott’s “post-war” Los Angeles carried a desperation, drive and darkness that can only inhabit forsaken worlds, Villeneuve’s Los Angeles is ethereally still — characteristic of the director of the similarly otherworldly Arrival — and largely devoid of people.
The reason Villeneuve’s fascination for the visual doesn’t swamp Blade Runner 2049 though is that this film couldn’t have come at a better moment, raising its questions about what is fake and what is real at a time when virtual pets or virtual relationships, both are a matter of reality.
Sometime between the 1982 film and now, a “blackout” has raged the Earth, and there are few humans left — if any. Its chief blade runner, ‘K’ (called that for short, as he exists only as a serial number), played by Gosling, comes home to a virtual wife, who serves him virtual food and is erased mid-kiss by an incoming call.
The megalomaniac who heads the corporation that is churning out ever-improved human replicas is, this time, Niander Wallace (Leto). He reasons, quite incisively, that all civilisations are built on “disposable workforces” and that he is but building some through his androids. At another point, K’s boss ‘Madam’ — a steely cold LAPD head with a heart, played by Wright — says worlds are built on walls, and a world needs these divisions to “keep order”. On either side of one such wall, both Wallace and the Madam are after a “secret” that has been kept for 30 years (since the last film) — revealing which would be a plot spoiler.
In that sense, 2049 delves repeatedly into the question of morality that occupied Dick’s short novel, on what it is to be human, when humans are erasing all that is alive and going after the robotic androids they once built to serve them, for sometimes no reason other than for seeking a life more like humans. Scott’s film wasn’t really as tormented by this idea, but the androids (renamed ‘replicants’ in both the films) of the 1982 version, chased down by Ford’s Rick Deckard, were haunting creatures, more vulnerable than the humans they were in conflict with. Whether clutching photos that were their link to “reality”, confronting their creators, or asking questions, they threw the logic of humans into their faces.
Despite underlining the futility of that logic repeatedly in 2049, Villineuve ironically never comes close to hitting that raw nerve. Gosling, a talented actor who plays all his roles with a knowing detachment, can’t make us care for his K. Ford appears too late in the film, while Leto serves just as an impressive-sounding piece in a too-ambitious puzzle.
It’s the women who consistently score, from K’s virtual wife Joi (Armas) to Luv, Wallace’s menacing sidekick played with some real menace by Hoeks. (The changed spellings, of joy and love, another interesting take-off of our times.)
You will walk away impressed from 2049, mesmerised by its reimagining of Earth, delivered by the multiple Oscar-nominee cinematographer Roger Deakins. You will walk away marvelling at its technology, especially Joi’s fluctuating image. But you probably won’t care much for this cold, radioactive, and fairly heartless, Earth.