The running time of the Blade Runner 2049 movie is 2hrs37mins. Arguably, it’s a daunting commitment for any potential viewer. You might go thinking: ‘Ah, that means the tempo’s slow and it’s overly-long or self-indulgent.’ Rest assured, however, that when you are occupied watching awe-inspiring visuals and listening to an intriguing soundscape, you simply don’t notice the time passing. And there’s a decent detective story with tantalising clues, a multi-layered plot and exciting conflicts thrown in as well. This film truly has the lot.
The director is Denis Villeneuve, who also made the award-winning SF flick Arrival. He recaptures the vision of the future we see in the original Blade Runner and then builds upon it, with fine world-building (enough for a third movie, without doubt) and his own original ideas. He is also a skilled, light-touch story-teller. There is nothing clumsy or clunky in Blade Runner 2049. It is all subtlety, allusion and some playful confusion. Such an approach would make for a frustrating watch with certain directors, but Villeneuve makes sure to deliver on revelations and to resolve every aspect of what is going on. It’s masterfully done.
The story? Well, the cyborgs/androids of the first movie have been replaced by a new series of much-more-obedient AIs. These AIs each has an artificial ‘childhood memory’ implanted into them so that they can react in a more human way to day-to-day life, and so that they can react with a certain personality. We follow one AI detective (played skillfully by Ryan Gosling) who comes to suspect that his memory is real and holds clues to the mystery with which he has been tasked by his boss (the ever-wonderful Robin Wright). Chuck in an evil tech corporation (with a sick boss and terrifying henchwoman) and we have everything we need for a dark and glorious tale. And it’s no secret that Harrison Ford is in the movie: he’s not wasted either; his ‘own’ story is really moved on by 2049… In fact, 2049 sorts out all the plot holes of the original film, which I would never have thought possible.
And here’s the kicker. I was never the biggest fan of the original Blade Runner, either when I saw it as a 15yrold at the cinema, or as a 40-year-old who assumed that all the ‘fuss’ about this ‘cult’ movie meant his youthful self must have missed something. I just thought of the original as a fairly predictable, clumsy and derivative SF flop (it wasn’t any Star Wars!). Yet Blade Runner 2049 has stood everything on its head. It’s almost as if my childhood memory is an artificial one, one that had been implanted to give me character. It’s as if my program has now been rewritten and I am born again. And that’s my last point about the movie: it has an eerie familiarity to it that makes it truly prescient and uncanny. It is a vision of what is most assuredly going to happen to our species. It has the power of prophecy. And so… I can only score this movie 10 out of 10 (a first for me).