Being deliberate is extremely important, as is having a clear vision of what you want to say and what you want to accomplish.
You want a better career? You want to meet that girl/guy? You want to lose weight? You want to make an epic movie?
Then you’d damn well better have a crystal clear start-to-finish vision in your mind and the ability and will to see it through.
The craftsmanship, care, love for the story, and perfect execution make it very clear that Denis Villeneuve is a deliberate man. Simply put, his latest movie, Blade Runner 2049, is absolutely brilliant.
I’ll do my best to stay away from hyperbole here, but forgive me and understand something: I was mildly heartbroken by the failure of The Last Jedi. I needed a “win” as it were. I sat down to watch this movie, unsure what I would find. Relief or further misery?
Crom be praised, this is what victory feels like.
You may recall from my previous article on this matter that I was also afraid to sit down and watch this movie with my wife. She’s tolerant of my taste in movies but only to a point, and the original Blade Runner doesn’t seem to give a shit if people like it or not.
So, with that in mind, I decided to forego the original and jump straight into the deep end with my wife by my side. No guts, no glory.
From the opening frames after the prologue, I was hooked. Start to finish, it’s a beautiful movie. My wife was less than immediately intrigued but she has only her taste in movies as a frame of reference. She quietly browsed Facebook and glanced at the movie for about the first 30 minutes, before she really began to pay attention during Joi’s (Ana de Armas) first scene.
Then the plot got to rolling and Blade Runner K (Ryan Gosling) was off on his quest to locate an individual that would change the very nature of humanity. “More human than human” is the most important plot point in this movie.
I was stunned at the reveal of the plot, and stunned again when the reveal was flipped upside down. I was so engrossed in the world that Villeneuve and Co. created that I didn’t see either surprise coming. The story is truly well plotted and executed, and actually elevates the original movie in review. Not many sequels can claim that feat. The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, Aliens, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day spring to mind.
Now, what more can possibly be said about the design and world-building in this movie? I certainly can’t add any brilliant observations. I can only tell you how I reacted to what I viewed.
All of Villeneuve’s movies feature cinematography that makes me feel as if I could reach out and touch the scene. This one is no different. God bless Roger Deakins (Sicario, Fargo, No Country For Old Men). There’s an unnerving sense of realism here and the production design and set decoration, coupled with stellar visual effects work (Weta Workshop, among others), brings the future California to life in a breathtaking way.
In particular, I found the orphanage scenes outstanding. I’m a big fan of the Fallout series of video games and these scenes felt like what I would expect to see in a truly great adaptation of Fallout 3.
Villeneuve’s use of color is astoundingly good. In contrast to the original movie, which was a masterwork of shadows and glaring neon, ‘2049’ feels like it was painted using a woman’s makeup palette. Each color is evocative and spoke to my heart, either drawing me in or repulsing me.
George Lucas once said, “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”
He was speaking prophetically about both his Star Wars prequel trilogy and Blade Runner 2049. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding his comment. The effects work on display here perfectly serves a great story and brilliant actors. The cityscapes and vast exterior shots of California 2049 are truly stunning.
Speaking of the brilliant actors: all of them are brilliant. Every part, from the leads to the bit parts, are perfectly cast and outfitted. Standouts for me include Sylvia Hoeks as a stone cold killer, Jared Leto as Tyrell 2.0, and of course my main movie hero Harrison Ford as Deckard.
Jared Leto is an excellent actor. I was very impressed with his excellent turn in The Dallas Buyers Club and completely bored with his face-plant in Suicide Squad. But love or hate him, the man is brilliant and his small role here is memorable.
Sylvia Hoeks was previously unknown to me, but I found myself riveted every time she was on screen. Her eyes are pools of death here and she makes Roy Batty seem like a guy having a rough day. I won’t bullshit you and tell you that I look forward to seeing her act in many more movies, but I loved the hell out of her performance here.
Harrison Ford, while enjoying a career resurgence, is also leaving nothing in the tank. You can tell when he’s engaged and when he’s bored. I won’t name movies but I think we all just know. He is completely engaged here. His eyes and his posture while recalling his past and his failure to become anything more than a killer cop are heartbreaking and had my eyes tearing up.
The score is fitting but didn’t impress me as much as Vangelis’ work on the original. This score fits the movie and isn’t distracting for the sake of its own promotion. I enjoyed it without being aware of it. Vangelis’ main theme gets a moment to shine here, and the imagery it plays over makes it just as impactful as ever.
Going back to the necessity of being deliberate in craft, the editing and pacing here are perfect. The running time wasn’t an issue for me. In all honesty I did pause the movie twice: once to tuck my little girl into bed and the second time to take a leak and get a snack.
So, fuck what you heard from me. You’re probably wondering how my wife enjoyed it. She asked me a bunch of questions when it was over. To want to know more about what we’d just seen is, for her, a huge compliment. She’s interested to see the original, which I described spoiler-free to her as “a smaller, more concentrated story”.
I cannot recommend this movie more highly. It’s perfect. I loved it. God bless Denis Villeneuve for having and executing a vision. It’s a rare quality in Hollywood these days.
Adiós, amigos y amiguitas!
A random scan of movie theaters in my area revealed that one was still screening Blade Runner 2049. I was elated. As luck would have it, today was the last day and I was able to attend.
Everything was heightened, especially the sound. The music came booming down and the visuals became even more nuanced.
The cityscapes stood out prominently, as did the actor close-ups. I was again very impressed with Sylvia Hoeks. She is scary as hell.
I suppose this movie, like the original, could be considered a box office failure. I can only hope that, also like the original, it achieves cult status and is screened now and again for its artistic achievement.