‘Blade Runner 2049’ review: A mesmerizing trip in a dark future

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Truly, Denis Villeneuve‘s cinematic eye is one of the best in the biz, and it’s proven within the first few scenes of Blade Runner 2049.

The French-Canadian director, known for his previous films Arrival, Enemy and Prisoners (among many others — remember Incendies and Polytechnique?), transports the audience into entirely foreign worlds, even if, as is the case with Enemy, it’s shot in downtown Toronto. It’s a unique ability for sure, and his cinematography and design are so hypnotizing that subtle flaws in his movies are rendered impotent. (Kudos also to cinematographer Roger Deakins, a previous collaborator with Villeneuve.)

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In Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the 1982 original Blade Runner, Villeneuve is working with a science-fiction palette, the greys, blacks and dark hues that he thrives in. Even when it’s clear that the natural environment surrounding main character K (Ryan Gosling) is totally dead, or the city he lives in is teeming with scrabbling vermin, both human and not, somehow it all seems very much full of life.

I don’t understand what you mean by that.

Blade Runner 2049 is like a waking dream: what’s real and what’s not? What’s alive and what’s not? Who has a soul and who doesn’t? You can never be sure. Mesmerizing throughout, the movie manages to depict the dystopia of urban 2049 perfectly; underneath the soot and snow and grime lies the possibility of life, of love, of being able to still fulfill your dreams, even if the woman you love is a sentient hologram. (Or is she?)

And oh, the special effects and CGI. The lighting and the shading, the music, the sound editing. A shoo-in to dominate the category at this year’s awards ceremonies, don’t be surprised if you discover your mouth hanging open while viewing the movie.

Enough about the scenery. How is the acting?

Sorry, I’m still hypnotized by it all. Gosling has been a leading man many times before, and here he doesn’t disappoint, his stare and demeanour absolutely spot-on in a world devoid of emotion. Harrison Ford returns in the role of Rick Deckard, and even 35 years later, he’s still got it down. Slower and greyer, Ford’s curmudgeonly vibe actually works better in the sequel. Robin Wright is underused as K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi, but rest assured every scene she’s in, she’s an eye magnet. (In this and in Wonder Woman earlier this year, Wright has proven that if you need a badass supporting female, she’s your woman.)

WATCH BELOW: Jared Leto on his role in ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Ana de Armas, as K’s companion Joi, is a standout delight, and she brings incredible depth to a role that could’ve been very two-dimensional. Last but not least, Jared Leto takes on the crucial role of Niander Wallace, a sort-of genius guru responsible for the “new” replicants. Leto can’t help but be his long-haired, yogi self, sitting cross-legged on the floor while slowly delivering soliloquies about life. While not terrible, he’s at peak Leto.

Any surprises or nods to Blade Runner fans?

So many. So, so many. Unfortunately there are restrictions as to what can be revealed, so to be safe, go in blind. Honestly, the movie is better without a lot of spoilers. Wouldn’t you rather discover the Easter eggs yourself?

I’ve heard this is the best movie of the year. Is it?

The year’s not over yet, so let’s not be premature. Sci-fi fans and fans of the original movie will be on-board with heaping praise on 2049, despite its faults. It doesn’t have many, but its bloated length at almost three hours is one of them. A few scenes could stand to be nipped and tucked, or a couple long stares here and there could’ve been axed (there are a lot of stares). To the movie’s credit, the three hours flies by; I only checked my watch once and it was two hours in.

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Considering today’s trend of endless lacklustre reboots and sequels, Blade Runner 2049 bucks the trend as a beautiful, heartwrenching follow-up to the original.

So what’s the bottom line?

Expect the movie to be on every critic’s Top 5 list (Top 3?) and don’t be surprised when you see it nominated for every award under the sun. In a year of duds and flops, Blade Runner 2049 is light years ahead of the competition.

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