Denis Villeneuve is some kind of cinematic magician. He bounces between genres, masters them all, and has now resurrected a 35-year-old classic and made it his own. It’s like he soaked in the essence of Blade Runner and channelled it into this new story, which continues the original’s themes regarding sentience, expands on them, then adds new shades of grey.
Villeneuve is also a master of tone, recreating Ridley Scott’s trick of making everything feel like a puzzle to be solved. Blade Runner 2049 is enigmatic, continually intriguing, and at its heart, a noir film. One of the first shots of Ryan Gosling has him in silhouette, and throughout characters are shrouded in darkness as we try to parse their motivations.
Each scene feels like a window into a place worth exploring. It’s full of fascinating characters, some of whom we only meet fleetingly. Future L.A. may be a blasted hell-scape, but it’s an exhilarating place to spend some time, and one that’s realised with huge attention to detail.
Gosling is great, bringing the stoicism of his work with Nicolas Winding Refn but allowing some warmth to creep through. And Harrison Ford keeps proving that he can actually still act, getting some of the most moving moments in a story that deals with tragedy and redemption.
Blade Runner 2049 honours its predecessor by using it as inspiration for a crop of new ideas. It’s a bold, bleak dose of sci-fi miserabilism that occasionally reveals its beating human heart.