Blade Runner

It's my understanding that in the original voiceover, Rick Dekard (Ford) says his former boss, Harry Bryant (Walsh), is the kind of cop who might once have called blacks niggers. So the pejorative that ricochets throughout the film, skinjob, ought to land on the ear thusly. It's that kind of word. It's a bad word -- a mean one. It makes sense. The replicants are Off-World slaves, beings with calculated shelf lives whose physical durability begets, not longevity, but more and better labor. What's at stake when they run? Freedom.

But what's at stake for Dekard? It's sort of funny, and extremely crucial, that this film is awash in all the trappings of a futuristic, post-racial techno-industrial noir, a world full of merchants and street punks, in which lush, stylized curlicues of cigarette smoke are indistinct from all the surrounding smog; in which one face, whether asian or white -- there are no other options; and many people are a mix of the two -- has nothing and everything in common with all the others. It's a world from which Dekard manages to stand out with dark singularity, but it's also a world that has almost nothing to offer him, save the unchallenged cynicism afforded by the chase. He's a great noir hero, not because of any psychological or archetypal depth, but because that's precisely what's missing. The real characters here, the ones who want, who feel, are the replicants; this is the crux of the film. Fear of survival during slavery taught them that -- watch them run from death -- and Dekard's mechanical absence of interior, his lack of feeling until he falls in love, alerts us to it. They run with purpose. He runs for the job -- until he's running alongside them.

A strange, beautiful film.