To be quite honest with you all, I was not sure which film to write about next. I debated between some upcoming films that I saw at Fantastic Fest - Brawl in Cell Block 99, Gerald's Game, 1922, My Friend Dahmer, and more. Then I went to an opening night screening of Denis Villeneuve's new masterpiece, Blade Runner 2049, and my decision was made. As you can already tell, I love this film a lot. I am not going to outright say whether or not there are spoilers in this review, but if spoilers concern you then go watch the film first and come back to this review later. If you do not care about spoilers, read on!
If I had to choose one aspect of this film to label as my favorite aspect of the film, it would easily be the cinematography helmed by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall, Fargo, True Grit, Sicario, and more). To this day, Deakins has amassed 13 Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and has won zero. He has essentially been a perennial nominee, but never a winner. This needs to be the film that finally gets Deakins that elusive first Oscar. If you do not believe me or agree with me, I urge you to look at all the film images I have included in this review and then see this on an IMAX screen. Your mind will likely be changed.
This is also an element of cinematography, but the brilliant use of lighting and color in this film cannot be ignored. Much like the original Blade Runner film, 2049 is overflowing with beautiful noir imagery as every dark scene in the film implements contrasting bright light in one way or another. Orange and blue are my two favorite colors and I have never seen a film use every shade of orange and blue, both bright and dark, the way Blade Runner 2049 uses these colors. It is no secret to my friends that I thought 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road was just an ok film, but I had not seen a film so visually and aesthetically beautiful until I saw Blade Runner 2049.
Of course, this film is not all visuals and technical marvels; it also features a deep, thought-provoking, and compelling story that deals more with self-identity than any film I have seen in recent years. Viewers like myself whom are fans of the original Blade Runner had many questions going into 2049 - some were answered, many were not, and other questions were generated. This is going to be a turn-off to so many viewers, but 2049 does not spoon-feed the audience answers to all the questions we have. There are clues and hints throughout that lead to suggested answers, but no questions are definitively answered except for the identity of Ryan Gosling's character Officer K. Every other question in the film is left to interpretation.
Ryan Gosling is one of my favorite actors, if not my favorite. La La Land is my favorite film of all-time, so this should come as no surprise. I was not a Blade Runner fan until I heard news of Gosling's involvement in the new film; that is when I went back and watched the original film for the first time and became a fan. Combining Gosling with one of my favorite directors working today, Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival, etc.), was all I needed to be sold on this sequel to an all-time sci-fi classic. Harrison Ford's performance is one of his best in a long time as well. He finally seemed like he was in a film that he truly wanted to be in instead of signing a paycheck for fan service like he did with The Force Awakens. Ford's character, Rick Deckard, does not show up in the film until about 100 minutes in, but his performance in the final 63 minutes of the film is perfection and, in my opinion, worthy of a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Could Gosling be nominated again for Best Actor? It is possible, and I would be ok with it at this point, but we still have a lot of award-season films to see before I can make that prediction.
Blade Runner 2049 does do enough to stand alone as its own film, but if you consider yourself a true fan of the Blade Runner lore and universe then there are four films (1 feature and 3 shorts) that you should watch before watching Blade Runner 2049 and you should watch them in this order:
1. Blade Runner: The Final Cut
2. Blade Runner: Black Out 2022
3. Blade Runner 2036: Nexus Dawn
4. Blade Runner 2048: Nowhere to Run
The original Blade runner film can be rented on all digital platforms and the three short films can all be found on YouTube. I cannot stress enough how important it is to see all of these films in order to almost fully understand everything that occurs in 2049. As I have stated before, I do believe this film is a masterpiece and is the best film I have seen in 2017. It is not my favorite film of 2017 - that award still goes to Baby Driver right now - but I do believe that Blade Runner 2049 is the *best film* of 2017 so far. If you have already seen this film, please talk to me about it on Twitter. If not, please go see this film so we can talk about Blade Runner 2049!