[Screen It]


(2017) (Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford) (R)

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Sci-Fi: In the mid 21st century, a LAPD officer who's assigned to find and kill rebellious, older model android replicants makes a startling discovery that shakes his world and that of others.
It's the year 2049 and K (RYAN GOSLING) is a "blade runner," a LAPD officer whose job is to find and kill older model realistic androids known as replicants that turned rebellious decades ago. Since then, they've been replaced by newer models built by industrialist Niander Wallace (JARED LETO), but with some of those older models still out and about, K takes his marching orders from Lieutenant Joshi (ROBIN WRIGHT) and tracks down and "retires" them.

After one such mission, K makes a startling discovery that Joshi claims could upset the balance of the world and she orders that the evidence be destroyed. It's something that also draws the interest of Niander who sends his ruthless assistant, Luv (SYLVIA HOEKS), to get her hands on the result of that discovery, but K wants to find that for himself, what with wondering how it might tie in with childhood memories he isn't even sure are real. With his "girlfriend" Joi (ANA DE ARMAS) in tow, he then sets out to find a former and now long-missing blade runner, Deckard (HARRISON FORD), in hopes that he might be able to help him uncover the truth.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
I have no idea when or why it first happened, but humankind has long had a preoccupation with human-like automatons, robots, and androids. It's possible some of that could stem from childhood desires of wishing inanimate dolls and other such toys would come to life, the advent of machinery brought about by the Industrial Age, or maybe some of it's based on centuries of slavery and wanting to control and use subservient beings.

Whatever the case, we're getting closer and closer every passing year to robots and androids being a common reality, and in doing so catching up with science fiction -- and particularly sci-fi movies -- in how such matters would play out. In fact, some of the most popular such movies feature some sort of artificial intelligence, be that the "Terminator" and "Transformers" flicks or "Star Wars," "Westworld," "The Iron Giant," "Wall-E" and so on.

One film that stood out for its use of androids along with deeper philosophical, societal and social matters is "Blade Runner," Ridley Scott's 1982 classic where Harrison Ford played a futuristic cop (of the year 2019) whose job was to "retire" replicants (realistic looking androids, complete with implanted memories for their own back-story) and then discovered that assignment was more complicated -- for a variety of reasons -- than originally imagined.

I haven't seen the original since it was released and last saw an altered cut (where Ford's voice-over narration was stripped) a quarter of a century ago. But I recall it being visually striking (with a great score by Vangelis) and certainly intriguing in regard to its thematic elements.

I imagine many viewers -- both fans of the original film and those new to this story -- will have the same reaction to "Blade Runner: 2049," a long-in-the-making sequel that arrives courtesy of one of my favorite filmmakers working today, Denis Villeneuve ("Sicario," "Prisoners" and to a lesser extent in my opinion, "Arrival").

Warner Bros. has asked critics not to reveal much about the plot -- penned by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green -- or certain characters (some of which is a bit goofy in general considering some of that's revealed right away in the film, while fans will be posting and revealing everything on social media the day the film is released), so we'll just say the flick takes up thirty years after the conclusion of the original, with a bit of onscreen text briefly describing what happened in the interim.

After that, our new titular character (played by Ryan Gosling in a somewhat monotone performance presumably designed to keep audiences guessing about whether he's an android or not) "retires" an older model replicant and then finds something unusual that has some parties (such as his boss played by Robin Wright) concerned and others (such as the new "God" like creator played by Jared Leto, and his steely and violent assistant played by Sylvia Hoeks) interested in getting their hands on where and what said discovery might lead to.

With his unique "girlfriend" in tow (played by Ana de Armas in a terrific performance), he then seeks out one of his long-missing predecessors (Harrison Ford, no surprises there since he's appeared in the trailers for months) for answers. Along the way, there's enough action, thematic material, philosophical questions, futuristic developments, ethical quandaries and all sorts of material revolving around the question of what constitutes life (especially of the sentient variety) to keep viewers more than engaged.

From a technical standpoint, the film is mesmerizing to behold, be that from the beautiful to bleak cinematography (courtesy of the always brilliant Roger Deakins), the score (by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer), the editing (cut by Joe Walker) and all of the production design, visual effects, sound work and more. When the trailer for a film still gives me goosebumps after I've seen the movie, you know that all involved have done their job and then some.

The real beauty of the film is that it works on so many levels simultaneously. Those looking for an intriguing action flick will be more than satisfied, while sci-fi fans, philosophy majors and everyone else will have plenty to keep them engaged from a variety of standpoints. I have no idea if "Blade Runner 2049" will end up having multiple, newly edited versions over the upcoming years, but as it stands, it's pretty darn good. The film rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed September 28, 2017 / Posted October 5, 2017

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