Blade Runner 2049 [IMAX/3D]
If nothing else, this was a singularly stunning, breathtakingly gorgeous, absolutely beautiful piece of film. Just give Roger Deakins his Oscar now! As for Dennis Villeneuve, the man is now five for five since his 2010 breakout film Prisoners, and he will surely be in the running for Best Director again this year. His film in itself - prior viewing of the 1982 original not necessary, but does inform the experience - was a surprisingly simple, yet layered noir/science fiction story that was effectively told despite its length (163 minutes) and also, ironically, satisfyingly unresolved. Ryan Gosling stood out and may get a nod but he is in danger of not breaking out of his comfort zone.
The IMAX experience was really worth it here. Not only as a canvas for Deakin's sumptuous cinematography, but also for the excellent sound design and mixing. So far, only this film, Dunkirk, Mad Max: Fury Road pioneer Avatar has really, properly utilised the capabilities of IMAX.
Villeneuve's directing was sure-handed and he managed to maintain the high standard of sci-fi storytelling he is known for - see Arrival and Enemy - with the sensibility of a blockbuster. The science fiction never corrupts the narrative and there was constantly a strong sense of character in his lead (Gosling). And like in Arrival, the story had the plausibility of being grounded in reality.
Hampton Francher and Michael Green co-wrote the screenplay and they might also get a nod for Best Original Screenplay. At 163 minutes they had a lot of time to craft out their characters and it did not disappoint. Even their villains had depth, Jared Leto in his hubris and Sylvia Hoeks in her loyalty.
The story took its time. With the first act introducing the audience to the new world and laying the seeds of the A-plot and the central conflicts/themes of the film, i.e. what makes us humans? And what makes us more than human? What defines humanity? Then came the second act where we inched towards the truth and more truths - or truths - are revealed. Then came a short third act where revelations are made as we hurdled towards the fourth and final act of resolution. But a resolution for whom? Definitely not us as the audience, as the world of Blade Runner persists.
Gosling, as handsome as he is, and as talented as he is, seemed to be channeling the same persona that he inhabited in his last films. A touch of Drive with some La La Land and a dose of The Place Beyond the Pines. The last film that he was truly, truly, heartbreakingly great in was Blue Valentine. Nonetheless, he stood out here and ably carried the show throughout. He embodied a character that we cared for, root for and ached for. So kudos to him.
Harrison Ford brought some gravitas to the screen but there is a reason why Ford does not have many awards - or nominations - under his belt. Although as a fan of the first Blade Runner, it was great to have Agent Deckard back and at least Villeneuve and co did not only bring him back just for fan service.
Unfortunately this film did fail the Bechdel Test. The one moment where two women interacted - Robin Wright, looking and acting very Claire Underwood, and Hoeks, channeling Alexandra Reid - they were discussing about Gosling. Ana de Armas played the only other female character that was somewhat outside of the A-plot, and she brought a tenderness to the film, helping to carry some of the emotional weight off Gosling's shoulder.
However, Deakins is the real star here. The long run time was partially because so many of the scenes were just too beautiful to leave on the cutting room floor. His colours, use of light, lines and proportions. Absolutely stunning. A whole masterclass in composition, lights and shadows can be done with this film.
The score was not as defining as Vangelis but Hans Zimmer and his protege Benjamin Wallfisch had created a soundscape that paid homage to Vangelis electronica-tinged score but yet also supported the grandiosity of Villeneuve's vision and Deakin's cinematography.
This film might even challenge Kingsman as the most stylish film of the year!
Blade Runner 2049 may be a modern day sci-fi classic. And a damn gorgeous one at that.