BLADE RUNNER 2049 10 out of 10; Directed by Denis Villeneuve; Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green; Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks; Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language; Running time 163 minutes; In theaters October 6.

To say that Blade Runner was one of the most important and influential science fiction movies of all time is an understatement. Almost every single sci-fi film that was made in the last 35 years since it was released has borrowed, or in some cases, outright stole material or filmmaking techniques from Ridley Scott’s classic. And since it is held in such high esteem by fans worldwide, there was definite trepidation about the sequel, especially with a different director at the helm. Fans need not worry though as 2049 manages to not only expand upon the story and universe from the original but is easily its equal if not slightly superior.

Because I cannot stress the importance of going into the movie as blind as possible, I’m not going to say much about the plot because it needs to be experienced firsthand with no foreknowledge. All that anyone needs to know is that Agent K (Ryan Gosling) works for the LAPD and has essentially taken on the role of a Blade Runner much like Deckard did in the original. Namely he tracks down rogue replicants and “retires” – kills – them. During an early investigation, he learns that something odd has been going on, and he is directed by his superior, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright), to track down an anomaly that could change the world as they know it if it is ever brought to light.

Simply put, this is a masterpiece of cinema. Director Denis Villeneuve along with cinematographer Roger Deakins have woven together a film that is not only layered and tense but also jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Villeneuve proved with Arrival that sci-fi is where he is strongest, and every trick he has learned on his previous outings are on full display here.

The story takes place in a world that is fully within the universe that the original setup, but everything is more gritty, desperate and dilapidated than it was 30 years ago. From the slums of Los Angeles and San Diego to the radioactively torn Las Vegas, this is a world that feels lived in and one that could easily be our future if we are not careful. So, like all good science fiction, it serves as a cautionary tale to a possible future that no one wants to see.

Of course, no story would be worth watching if the characters in it weren’t compelling and driven in their quests to find truth, and everyone here is at the top of their game. Gosling has already proven that he is a fantastic actor, but his performance here is the best he’s ever given. As the moody Agent K, he commands presence when he’s on screen and gives more emotion with a single glare or grimace than most actors can do with their whole repertoire of skills. Not to be outdone, Harrison Ford also shows he still has what it takes to keep up with the new generation of actors. This isn’t grumpy, phoning-it-in Ford. This is the Ford we know and love, and makes me excited to see him in more roles as he wraps up his twilight years in Hollywood.

For those who dislike Jared Leto, never fear because he is simultaneously menacing and restrained and only shows up in a few very key scenes and is never overused. Much more interesting is Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, his enforcer who works as a wonderful foil to Gosling’s K. But both pale in comparison to Robin Wright who once again shows that she is one of the best actors in Hollywood and brings an importance and gravitas to a role that few others could hope to hold a candle to.

Another important character that must be discussed is the score expertly written by Hans Zimmer. It replicates much of the feeling of the original with heavy synthesizer sections mixed with classic orchestrations. What makes it so vital is how heavy and oppressive it is. It is constantly pressing down on the story as it plays out and manages to make the bleak future feel even more claustrophobic and depressing than it already is.

Very rarely can I say that a movie is flawless, but that description fully encapsulates 2049. Even with an incredibly long running time of nearly three hours, it leaves the audience wanting more and wondering how the time flew by so quickly. There isn’t an ounce of fat on this film as it is packed with important exposition and absolutely no padding to its rich story. Not all questions are answered by the end, but there is a definite sense of catharsis that will leave everyone walking out of the theater satisfied with how things played out. Villeneuve and company have done the impossible and created a movie that is easily as good as the original and might even slightly top it. 2049 is the reason I love film and what keeps me excited to walk into a theater to see what is in store for me week after week. It is a work of art and will stand the test of time along with the original Blade Runner as one of the greatest sci-fi films ever.

10 out of 10

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Tags: replicants , Denis Villeneuve , harrison ford , ryan gosling , blade runner