Blade Runner 2049: Beautiful complexity

Prestige cinema comes at a price.

For some, the nearly two-hour and 45-minute science fiction epic “Blade Runner 2049” is a masterpiece of dynamic, visually stunning moviemaking from French Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve.

And yet other moviegoers will find the Ryan Gosling sequel to the 1982 Harrison Ford cult classic excessive, boring or outright stupid.
What “Blade Runner 2049” does best is help define who we are as moviegoers. It’s a film that rewards active, engaged audiences seeking deeper meaning artistry. It’s also a film that punishes more passive audiences looking for simple, no-frills entertainment.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a movie drenched in frills, crafted with a discerning eye and a work of art that will be long debated years from now as one of the best films in 2017 and in the sci-fi genre in general.

The less you know about the film heading to the theaters the better, though rewatching Ridley Scott’s original film will help fill in the background. The only explanation of “Blade Runner 2049” needed prior to screening is defining the title itself. In the world of the film, a “blade runner” is a law enforcement officer tasked with the “retirement” or elimination of “replicants,” highly intelligent robot slaves designed to be nearly identical to humans.

Coming off a Best Actor Oscar nomination last year for “La La Land,” Gosling delivers a more reserved, internal turn as a young “blade runner” known simply as K. It’s a performance that won’t blow audiences away on a first viewing; there’s too much happening on screen to notice the nuance in Gosling’s somber, emotional work.

With closer examination, viewers will appreciate the subtle changes Gosling brings out in K as the plot twists and winds towards its conclusion. K’s conflict as he struggles with his humanity and the job required of him is delicately unwoven by Gosling in a performance rarely matched in science fiction filmmaking.

Thirty-five years after starring in “Blade Runner.” Ford returns in “2049” with a decidedly smaller, but equally intriguing performance as now-retired blade runner Rick Deckard.

While it may seem at first glance that Ford lacks interest in revisiting old roles, he invigorates Deckard with a well-worn weariness that hides deeper emotion. Support for the film as a whole as well as Ford’s storied career could lead to a surprising, yet deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Villeneuve takes his time with a deliberate, metered film that allows “Blade Runner 2049” plenty of room to breathe. This lingering in and out of scenes will thrill viewers mesmerized by the vibrant cinematography and will infuriate audience members longing for the film to shave off 20-30 minutes off its running time.

But “2049” would be such a dramatically different, lesser film if constrained by time that its slight excesses become wholly justificiable and necessary to the overall success of the film.

Visually, “Blade Runner 2049” is one of the most dynamic, spectacular pieces of cinematic art you’ll find in a long time. The care, craft and artistry taken to frame, light and shoot each second of “Blade Runner 2049” is so meticulously designed that the film stands as a 160-minute advertisement advocating for the continued longevity of cinema as an art form best seen on the big screen of a movie theater.

The film’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, has been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards for shooting iconic movies like “The Shawshank Redemption,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Skyfall.” Without a doubt, “Blade Runner 2049” is his most stunning, captivating work to date and has to be considered the frontrunner for the cinematography Oscar.

Deakins winning his first Academy Award on a fourteenth nomination would not be considered a lifetime achievement award, but the cap on top of the pinnacle of his illustrious career.

Strong critical support and dazzling technical work will likely make “Blade Runner 2049” a contender in numerous Oscar categories including Best Picture in much the same way “Mad Max: Fury Road” did with 10 nominations in 2015.

Dynamic and captivating, “Blade Runner 2049” is without question one of the best films to arrive in theaters in 2017. Its picture-perfect cinematography and terrific performances combined with a complex storyline and lengthy running time make “2049” a must see or a must skip film depending on what kind of moviegoer you are.

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