Blade Runner

Blade Runner ★★★★★

November 2016: Scavenger Hunt #20
TASK #7: A film that you would be willing to spend $50/€50/¥5600 to see it on the big screen for the first time!

In the post-apocalyptic, rain-swept, smog-choked dystopian Los Angeles, California of November 2019, blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is called out of retirement by his former boss Harry Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh) to retire a quartet of replicants who have escaped from an off-world colony to the planet Earth. The group, led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) and also including Pris (Daryl Hannah), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), and Leon Kowalski (Brion James), are seeking their creator, Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), the head of the Tyrell Corporation, for a way to extend their short life spans.

Although I’m not familiar with Philip K. Dick’s source novel, I loved Ridley Scott’s film adaptation Blade Runner ever since I first saw it. This was one of the first films I’ve seen that made me want to make films, to pursue a career in filmmaking. It’s also my favorite film of all time. I’ve seen plenty of great films during my lifetime, but none have come close to being as smart, as thrilling, as thought-provoking, as dark, as haunting, as complex, or as breathtakingly beautiful as Blade Runner.

First things first, the many ideas, themes, and questions Blade Runner explores. This is mainly a film about what it means to be truly human and whether or not that can be perfectly replicated. But it’s about many other things as well. It’s about what life is and who has a right to it. It’s about finding your identity. It’s about our relationships to both fellow human beings and technology. It’s about our responsibility to said technology. It’s about our responsibility to what we create. It’s about whether what we create is good for humanity or damaging to humanity. It’s about (re)discovering your memory. It’s about whether or not we should accept mortality, accept death and acknowledge it as a natural part of life, human or otherwise.

Each of these questions, themes, and ideas are just as morally complex and thought-provoking as one another and each get their chance to shine and be explored so beautifully throughout Blade Runner. Each of them encourage the audience to really give their own thoughts and opinions on the matters as well as ask all kinds of questions. This, much like last year’s Ex Machina, is the best kind of science fiction: the kind that makes you think.

Next, the effects and the way it’s shot. I could literally go on for an eternity about how dazzling the camerawork and visuals are in this film. The editing is slick and fluid throughout, keeping the film moving at just the right pace and letting each and every scene get their chance to stand out. Jordan Cronenweth’s work as director of photography is absolutely marvelous. This is the most gorgeous film I’ve ever seen. It looks like it was made in today’s age as opposed to almost thirty-five years ago. From the lighting to the camera angles and movements, from the shot composition to the brilliant use of radiant colors, everything about the cinematography works perfectly, as do the production and set designs.

This film’s vision of a dystopian future is grand and sumptous yet at the same time chilling and all too realistic, even in spite of the fact that we’re three years from 2019 and we don’t have any flying cars or neon-lit buildings. What makes it seem so believable and plausible even in today’s age is the grittiness and griminess of it. Everything’s almost completely covered in rain and smog, all sorts of trash and garbage float and lay all over the ground, giant explosions and rings of fire spewed from tall towers burn into the dark and cloudless skies, and certain items and elements from the past are wonderfully incorporated and elaborated upon. Lawrence G. Paull & David L. Snyder’s work on this film is flawless, as is the visual effects work from Douglas Trumbull and Scott Stewart, which blends together excellently with the matte paintings and practical sets and effects. Everything looks just the way they need to look in order for them to work properly.

Another thing that works so well throughout the whole film is the beautiful musical score from Vangelis, expertly mixing orchestras and classical composition with electronic synthesizers. The music helps add to the dark and incredibly moody atmosphere that the film is so rich with. It has a distinct 80’s sound to it yet at the same time, it feels and also sounds timeless and it manages to complement the film’s neo-noirish tone that’s reminiscent of classic noir thrillers from the 1930’s and 1940’s very well.

However, technical aspects aren’t going to matter without strong storytelling, characters, dialogue, and performances, and Blade Runner delivers on them tenfold. The story is endlessly compelling and takes full advantage of its slow-burn approach, culminating in a tragic, bittersweet climax that uses soliloquy to wrap up many of the main themes and central ideas in a neat package and bring them all together in a way that’s simple yet poetic. This story is both Rick Deckard’s story and Roy Batty’s story. Deckard’s because he’s lost within the world around him, finds it increasingly hard to tell apart what’s real and what isn’t, and yet is unwilling to change his lot in life. Batty’s because he’s the heart and soul of the film, ironic given that he’s an android, and in his quest to pursue more life so he can live longer and because he’s deeply afraid of death, he ends up providing an atypical role reversal in his final scene and becomes a sympathetic antagonist.

Harrison Ford conveys what Rick Deckard goes through excellently and Rutger Hauer’s performance as Roy Batty is masterful. The other actors do fine jobs as well. Sean Young is great as Rachael, a replicant who may act mechanical in nature in actuality longs for humanity and to be genuine, not artificial, and her love scene with Deckard is one of my favorite parts of the film. It seems like rape and domination at face value, but it’s really Deckard challenging Rachael, who’s scared and confused, to reclaim her real feelings as opposed to running away from them.

Blade Runner is a masterpiece of filmmaking, an original and intelligent sci-fi film that explores both what it means to be human and whether or not that could ever be recreated, featuring gorgeous visuals and cinematography, a well-written script, and top-notch performances, especially from the excellent Rutger Hauer. His speech at the end about tears in the rain and how it’s now the right time for him to pass away gets me choked up and all teary-eyed every single time. This is Ridley Scott’s magnum opus and I pray to the heavens that Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t turn out a letdown.

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