MAJOR SPOILERS to follow for Blade Runner 2049….
Blade Runner 2049 is an absolute masterpiece, after 2 viewings it is by far my favourite movie of the year and may very well soon show up on my greatest films of all time list. Denis Villeneuve who I had already deemed to be one of the greatest modern directors after films such as Prisoners (2013), Enemy (2014), Sicario (2015), and Arrival (2016) has just cemented his place among the highest on this list with this Sci-Fi masterpiece. There is not a bad millisecond of this entire movie, everything from the cinematography, to the plot, characters, performances, score, directing, editing, and pacing is immaculate and the fact that he accomplishes this over a lengthy 2 hour and 43 minute runtime is even more impressive. The reason why this review has to exist is due to the fact that the rumours are true, EVERYTHING is a spoiler including the plot itself so how about we get into discussing the importance of this genius plot.
Much like the original Blade Runner this is a strikingly human story, focused on blending the lines between human and replicant and it does so stronger than ever before through the use of a key character from the original film. Upon analysing the plot of land owned and run by Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), agent K uncovers a box containing the bones of an older model of replicant who is found out to be Rick Deckard’s (Harrison Ford) love from the first film Rachael (Sean Young). The major early surprise is that Rachael was pregnant and although she died in labour she successfully gave birth to a child, a feat that was previously believed to be impossible. Now it is up to K to find and exterminate this child under the fear that if this were to get out to the public it would destroy the world as they know it. The way this plot unfolds gradually over the course of this film is brilliant and had me hooked the whole way from beginning to end. It all flowed so smoothly as K makes his way from one location to another finding clue after clue about the child’s identity and he ends up believing for some time that he is the offspring of Rick and Rachael. And all signs point to this fact, that is up until they flip the table on us and have us rethink everything we thought we knew about K’s history. It is an emotionally rich story which plays very well on its own but also is a perfect companion to the original where watching the two back to back makes it feel like two parts of one story so all props to Villeneuve and of course Hampton Fancher for pulling this off.
Let’s talk about Rachael who not only has a crucial role in the plot but also much to my surprise and excitement appears in her classic getup, hairstyle and all….. well all except for her eye colour. This element of the plot not only is crucial to the plot of this film but is also crucial in adding some more insight into the events of the original as we now know that before his death Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) had solved how to make a replicant that can successfully procreate. It is unclear on whether it was a whole line of replicants who were built with this possibility or just Rachael but considering she was his most cherished creation I tend to believe he perfected this detail in her alone. After her death with the help of Sapper and Freysa (Hiam Abbass) the child was able to be successfully hidden from the world. But then just when we think Rachael’s part in the plot existed solely in the past we get an amazing and incredibly emotional moment in which after capturing Deckard, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) presents him with a replica of Rachael as incentive to surrender his child. Seeing Rachael once again knowing her position in this story was a great moment and with Harrison’s performance here it was a very emotional scene where he expertly conveys so many emotions through his facial expressions to where you see the pain in his eyes and the longing to have what he lost. Much like many other scenes this was a perfectly shocking one, and one that no Blade Runner fan will forget any time soon.
Now lets talk about Dave Bautista’s replicant character of Sapper Morgan who is not in the film for long but is crucial to the story and has a really powerful and emotionally strong moment that when you understand the events of the past you see the level of humanity in him. He was the one who helped deliver Rachael’s child and assisted in the hiding of that child and keeping her secret safe. After a tense fight sequence between K and Sapper and before he allows himself to be shot by K he has a brief moment where he is able to utter some final words. One of the lines he says is very powerful in the context of the entire film and is a line that the meaning of which doesn’t come to light until much later on. The line is as follows: “You’ve never seen a miracle” and this line echoes the opening line of the infamous ‘Tears in the Rain’ monologue from Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in which he says “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”. The emotion in Sapper’s face as he utters this line adds to how important humanity is to the replicants and always has been. There is another phenomenal line late in the film uttered by Freysa, the other replicant who helped hide Rachael’s child in which she says “Dying for the right cause is the most human thing we can do”. This plays into adding further meaning behind Sapper’s death but also then adds to K’s death at the end of the movie.
Speaking of Freysa she is a character who is very lightly featured, only showing up in two scenes and she is one character I really want to see a lot more of if a third film or another film set in the world is ever made. In the scenes she briefly features we get the revelation that she is well into building up a rebel army of replicants who want nothing more than to be accepted amongst humans. She is a very intriguing character in a leadership position who has taken out her right eye so she can’t be identified as a replicant by her serial number.
If you read my regular review of Blade Runner 2049 you would know that I loved Niander Wallace as a villain and he is one of my top favourite things in this movie. He is a very blind and intelligent yet evil person who helped the world recover and go to new worlds following the blackout in 2022. He also took over for the Tyrell Corporation and began building new replicants in secret, ones who would obey every command and this led to the lifting on the ban of replicants which ultimately led to K being a replicant Blade Runner. He seems to have an obsession with wanting to create an oppressive army of replicants and in order to do so in a very rapid fashion he is trying to accomplish the feat that Tyrell perfected with Rachael; creating replicants that can reproduce. Unfortunately he cannot quite figure it out and so he tasks his angel Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) with tracking down the child. Luv is a replicant introduced initially as Wallace’s secretary but as she gets further and further into this investigation she is ultimately the brute force behind his company. She isn’t afraid to leave a trail of bodies to get what she wants and proves to be trouble for K and Deckard until she is eventually bested by K in a brutal fight to the death. Sylvia Hoeks does a phenomenal job selling the brutality and raw strength of her character and is a real menace hindering K’s investigation.
One other thing I want to go further into is Deckard’s role in the film and how incredible Harrison Ford was in the role and bringing back this iconic character after 35 years. I can go into this further here as I can now say that Deckard is really only in the movie for the latter third but to say he doesn’t have a massive impact on the film would be a total lie. For the limited amount of time he is on screen, Ford does an amazing job in this role bringing so much pain, love, and emotion to this role that I was floored after every one of his scenes. The scene where he comes face to face with Rachael was made 100 times better with the acting prowess he delivers there. Now you can’t talk about Deckard without once again bringing up the ‘replicant or not’ question, a question that has never been definitively answered but has been hinted at enough for people to make their own interpretation. For me, I feel as though the Final Cut of Blade Runner has enough hints to the fact that Deckard is a replicant to where I can definitively say that he is one. But again, that’s just confirmed in my mind and other people will have different interpretations. Now the question is once again bought up here a few times with one scene quite literally asking the question directly to Deckard.
One moment that subtly eludes to the fact that Deckard is or is not a replicant lies in the place he has been hiding in for the last 30 odd years. It is referenced that the location in which Deckard has been hiding is very radiation affected, which raises the question; how could a human survive 30 years in a radiation infested city? Maybe he hasn’t been there the whole time, maybe he found a pocket in that city that is not radiation affected, or maybe he’s a replicant and so it doesn’t affect him as it would a human. Either way we won’t get any more clarification on that and it is once again up for debate. What also comes from this sequence is another question… Is the dog real? This is another VERY important question that will pit fans against each other for the next 35 years….
The main moment in this film that addresses the replicant or not question is during the conversation between Deckard and Niander Wallace prior to the appearance of the new Rachael replicant. In this conversation Wallace says something that fuels this fire and adds another layer of thinking to the original movie. He poses the question to Deckard about whether his love for Rachael was real and authentic and at his own will or if their love and instant connection was a result of mathematical equation. I LOVED this scene because it added a new layer of thinking to the original film to where if Deckard was a replicant, was he designed by Tyrell to eventually fall in love with Rachael and was she designed to be the perfect companion for Deckard so they could procreate and make the first woman-born replicant. Deckard’s response to this question is nothing more than “I know what’s real”, this could indicate the obliviousness of his character to the fact that he is a replicant but again we will never know. I don’t think we will ever definitively get an answer to this question and i’m fine with that, his actions and emotions are entirely human and we have other replicant characters who have shown the blend between human and replicant much clearer.
Now I want to go into how humanity and the idea of replicants being more human than humans is explored extensively through the character of K. Throughout the film we spend a lot of time with K investigating but we also spend a lot of time focusing closely on his relationship with his Artificial Intelligence love interest Joi (Ana De Armas). The exploration of this relationship is another major way this film poses the idea that replicants are more human as it is focusing on the very human relationship between two different forms of technology who love each other. It is a relationship I wasn’t sure i’d be invested in until I very quickly was and I found myself caring for them and seeing how much they cared for each other. You may also be able to make the parallel between this relationship between two forms of AI and also Deckard and Rachael…… just saying. And then right at the end of the movie K is given the task of killing Deckard in order to ensure the preservation of the secret replicant child yet the way he handles the situation is in a very sentimental and human way. Rather than ending Deckard he provides him with an out, a way in which he could fake his death and disappear and also delivers him to his daughter, the daughter he has never met. This was a human act of kindness very reminiscent of the moment Roy Batty saved Deckard from falling to his death at the end of the original.
Last but most definitely not least, possibly the biggest revelation in this entire film is the moment you find out that the child of Deckard and Rachael is not K as most people would have expected but it is in fact the female memory maker who has lived her life in a dome creating memories for other people. The way this mystery unfolds is truly brilliant as the film gives you misdirect after misdirect which leads you to believe strongly after the first act that the child of Deckard and Rachael is K. And then at the last moment it reveals that is not the case and that K was used as a double, a decoy, so that if anyone ever came searching for the child they would go after K instead. The use of the implanted memory was a great way to misdirect people but what was even more impressive was the clever use of selective dialogue. When the daughter watches K’s memory she is bought to tears as she says “someone lived this”, and initially you believe she is crying because of what happened to K and that her statement indicates it is a real memory K had. But then at the end you learn that she was crying because that was her memory and what’s even more impressive is knowing that detail going into my second viewing made that scene so much more emotional than before.
So there you have it, they’re all the major spoiler filled details I wanted to touch on from this movie and i’m sure upon more repeat viewings (which will come) I will notice more details I hadn’t previously. But I just wanted to touch on a couple of cool smaller moments, one being the small cameo by Gaff (Edward James Olmos) who now resides in a nursing home and still makes origami animals. That was a cool, natural scene for fans of the first film. One other thing I want to mention is what I believe to be a subtle callback to the first film that hinted at the daughter reveal when K first comes across her. At one point the daughter talks about how there is a part of every artist in their work, this I believe is a callback to J.F. Sebastian’s (William Sanderson) line “There’s some of me in you”. And if we take the context of the original quote and combine it with the new quote then ‘me’ = ‘artist’ who in this case is the daughter and as she is talking to K then he would be the ‘you’, hence making sense of the quote once again. But that could be me just reading into things. This is a masterpiece that will go down in history and live as one of my favourite all time movies.