For many people the pairing of Denis Villeneuve with the long gestating Blade Runner sequel is a cause for celebration, a match made in heaven and a reason for optimism amongst hard-core fans of the 1982 classic. The Canadian director is the current go to name for intelligent and thought-provoking cinema, and manages to exceed all expectations here, elaborating perfectly on the world introduced in Ridley Scott’s original. Ryan Gosling plays K, a blade runner working for the Los Angeles Police Department and forced to prevent the uncovering of a secret that could have war-igniting consequences. It all eventually leads to the long awaited return of Harrison Ford’s Deckard in a mesmerizing third act.
It’s phenomenal filmmaking from Villeneuve once again, filling the screen with incredible imagery and a strangely beautiful murkiness that feels like a natural continuation of Scott’s vision. This is no simple rehash though, with a brilliantly conceived story and screenplay that the director layers with trademark depth and emotion. It all plays out to heartbreaking effect the longer the running time, stretching out over a crawling pace that will certainly divide audiences. Villeneuve takes his time from the outset, letting his cast drift past in an almost dreamlike haze. Gosling is great and Ford gives his best performance in years, but Ana de Armas and Robin Wright are the ones that leave the lasting impact as K’s holographic girlfriend Joi and hard-nosed yet sympathetic Lieutenant Joshi respectively.
There’s a sense of the bittersweet to it all though. For supporters of original movie storytelling this can’t help but feel like yet another visionary director being lost to sequels and franchises, a burgeoning genius using his talents for other peoples’ creations. Regardless, Blade Runner 2049 is an incredible film, the rare sequel able to match the original in both visual brilliance and pure mind-bending ideas.