Evan T’s review published on Letterboxd:
“And then there's that rarest of films, when you see it continually over years. Ten, fifteen, thirty, forty years... And you still see more in it."
— Martin Scorsese on 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Final Cut
It isn't often you find a film that's willing to renounce the quick-cut conventions of modern entertainment for the poignancy of its message, but every once in a while a film like Blade Runner reminds us that the true artistry of the medium doesn't lie solely in ideas but in execution. Take 2001, a film in which the first twenty-five minutes have no dialogue whatsoever. It's slow, subjective and silent, but through the existential emptiness we gain something no other film could've given us; a true understanding of the passage of time. In the case of Blade Runner, its pacing, brooding balance and tonal consistency work in a similar way, giving the aptest description of its dystopian world we could possibly hope for. This isn't to say the result bears many literal similarities to Kubrick's sci-fi behemoth, but the aesthetically symbolic process of the craft draws endless parallels. This is a film that has rightfully basked in its accomplishments for decades now, aging like a fine wine as the concrete jungle of 2019 Los Angeles tastes better and better with time.
From the breathless scale of Syd Mead's set designs to Ridley Scott's astute lighting and direction, Blade Runner unfolds confidently through its cinematic revolution. It shows us that tone is of equal importance as plot, and that an audience's attention should be focused on the collective talent, not just the screenwriter's narrative. No eighties-born science fiction has come close to the technical wizardry this film is accredited with, its meticulous mixture of models and animation being enough to drop jaws. Vangelis' assemblage of cultural diversity is nothing short of a musical revolution, constituting more than half the picture's thematic ingenuity with the seduction of jazz-smothered symphonies and smoky sound design. Even more alive than the characters, Vangelis' melancholic description of love-drenched despair is an incomprehensible feat. If this isn't one of your favourite scores of all time, it may be time to get those ears checked.
Whether your ears work or not, nothing can diminish the resonance of Harrison Ford's understated performance. Brooding like the film itself, Ford helps the audience believe the economical depression of this world, his cynical eyes running a commentary all of their own. Criticisms could be made with a handful of slightly clumsy action scenes, but such problems are more of a direction issue than one with the actor. In a film so rich with Gothic beauty, choreography errors are the least lurid of elements, particularly with talents like Sean Young, who is indisputably the business here. Every teardrop, puff of a cigarette or flutter of eyelashes screams a thousand words, giving us one of the most memorable humanoid-android performances ever to emerge. If Young's femme-fatale portrayal of Rachael made me rethink the openness of my sexual orientation, Rutger Hauer's portrayal as the tyrannical Roy Batty threw my curiosities of a mechanical relationship straight off the rain-soaked roof. Herein lies a performance that transcends the meaning of sinister, with a monologue written by Hauer himself which somehow manages to encapsulate the bittersweet irony of the entire universe in a matter of seconds. In the history of cinema, never has there been an unscripted monologue so pivotal to a picture.
In light of Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049, I imagine many of us have revisited this neo-noir classic. One thing I don't have to imagine, is that those who hated it the first time now hate it a little less, and those who loved it the first time now love it that bit more. It may be audacious, self-conscious or overly cryptic, but the immediacy of its iconic impact is beyond verbal articulation. This is a film which evokes a first impression almost as stupefying as its third impression. An impression which doesn't occur immediately however, is the realisation that Blade Runner is truly that rarest of films, where time and time again, it has more and more to say.