The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Michael O’Sullivan’s review of “Blade Runner 2049,” click here.
After nearly 15 years together, it’s entirely possible there’s nothing I could do that would surprise my husband. Then I said I was worried about seeing “Blade Runner 2049” because I’d never seen the first one. He surprised me with how fast he could use Amazon Prime to stream it.
I’m not sure why I hadn’t. It was just one of those things I always meant to get around to, like putting together the baby book (the baby is now 9) or rolling over my 401(k) from four jobs ago.
So we watched 1982’s “Blade Runner” (not “The Final Cut” version, which I will do right after that 401(k) thing). And, yes, I did think it was quite good and yes, it did help me understand “Blade Runner 2049” better. Not necessarily from a plot perspective — “2049” gets you up to speed within the first two minutes — but because it emphasized just how incredible “Blade Runner 2049” is.
Seriously: There is nothing bad about this movie. “Blade Runner 2049” is as close to perfect as a film has been in recent memory. Director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) has created an immersive world that just keeps getting better — you barely recover from gasping at the last visual when he hits you with another one. It builds on the aesthetic of the first one, a neon film noir, where the sidewalks are slicked with ashes rather than glistening with rain, and glaring digital billboards replace street lamps.
The sequel (with a screenplay by Hampton Fancher, one of the “Blade Runner” screenwriters, and Michael Green, who co-wrote “Logan”) continues the story of the original. There are replicants, which are kinda robots developed to serve humanity. Some of them decided that “serve humanity” wasn’t what they wanted to do anymore, so they’re hunted and “retired” by kinda cops called (wait for it) blade runners. Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard was the central blade runner in the first film; here, Ryan Gosling’s character is our entry to the story. Beyond that, the film further considers the questions of identity, community, duty and reality that were at the core of the first. “Blade Runner 2049” isn’t just a sequel — it’s an in-depth commentary on what made “Blade Runner” revolutionary and what keeps it relevant.
It’s always a little nerve-wracking writing a rave, because if others disagree, the film you’re celebrating becomes evidence of your bad taste. It’s often safer to be snarky, because even if the movie is a critical or commercial hit, you can shrug and say, “It just wasn’t for me, I guess.”
But when it comes to “Blade Runner 2049,” I’m laying it all on the line — this is an achingly beautiful, incredibly acted, intricately crafted piece of art that excels on all levels of moviemaking. If you haven’t seen the first one, admit it and rectify the situation. It will give you a place to stand on and a lens to see through when it comes to watching this modern masterpiece.
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