Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford & Ana de Armas
Rating: 15 Duration: 164 minutes Release date: 5 February (UK)
Realising that you don’t like a film that has been, very nearly, universally praised is a hard thing to take. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit something to yourself, especially when the common consensus is against you. But, here I am, I’ve just watched Blade Runner 2049 and I sit with my head in my hands wondering where it all went wrong. Was it me? Was it the film? Is there an unspecified amount of peer pressure to enjoy this film? Or was it just monumentally boring? I almost feel sad saying this, but Blade Runner 2049 was a chore of a film and despite being utterly beautiful, I found myself devoid of enjoyment or interest while the film ran for nearly three hours.
Set 30 years after the events of Blade Runner, director Denis Villeneuve has taken the mantle from Ridley Scott and attempts to deliver a film that works as a stand alone and also honours the 1982 original. Ryan Gosling’s Officer K is an LAPD Blade Runner who uncovers a long buried secret that threatens to tear apart what is left of an already fragile society. As he uncovers more clues, K is led to Harrison Ford’s returning Rick Deckard. With a class war brewing, mentions of walls to keep the replicants away from the humans and the chance of a better life “off-world”, Blade Runner 2049 carries an almighty weight which is intensely felt throughout the film.
It’s not easy to criticise a film like this. In fact, it would be much easier to write a glowing review where I talk about Roger Deakins gorgeous cinematography, seriously if he doesn’t win an Oscar for this there is no hope for the world. Or I could talk about Denis Villeneuve’s smart and brave film-making, where he builds worlds from the ground up and dares to make some of the smartest films of his generation in a time where all people want is the next superhero film or whatever Dwayne Johnson pops up in next. I could talk about Dave Bautista’s excellent performance in a role that maybe many didn’t expect him to be able to give. Or Ana de Armas giving a heartbreaking portrayal of a hologram whose sole purpose is to please Gosling’s downbeat police officer. There is fine, award winning work to be admired here, but at two hours and 44 minutes long, it’s an incredibly hard film to stomach.
Perhaps, much like the original, Blade Runner 2049 is a film that will grow over time. Maybe I will appreciate it more after further viewings, but the fact remains that I don’t really want to travel back to California 2049. For all its staggering beauty and thoughtful shots, I do not want to come back here. It really does pain me to say this, but once the boredom had set in there was no coming back. It’s a troublesome issue, and one that is made even harder to admit because I truly do recognise how brilliantly well made the film is, and how earnestly acted the whole thing is. One may even conclude that Harrison Ford may be doing his finest work here. But, as the dust settles and we take another step with Ryan Gosling’s forlorn officer, I can’t help but feel like I’m watching a different film to everyone else. Yes it’s gorgeous, and yes it’s smart science-fiction with a blockbuster budget and god damn it yes I want more films like this, but when does it become enjoyable?