Movie review: Blade Runner 2049 is top-notch entertainment

Ryan Gosling (left) and Harrison Ford star in Blade Runner 2049. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
Ryan Gosling (left) and Harrison Ford star in Blade Runner 2049. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Blade Runner 2049 (NC16)

164 minutes/Now showing/4 stars

The story: Three decades after the events of Blade Runner (1982), replicants - or bioengineered humans - now number in the millions and are the slave class. "K" (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner, an agent who hunts and kills runaway replicants, in spite of how he is himself a replicant. While pursuing a case, K learns a fact that could destroy the delicate human-replicant power balance.

John Lui

At the risk of giving too much away, this movie, as they say, is deja vu all over again: Just as Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) was a refurbishment of the original 1977 movie, this sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 science-fiction classic is likewise more like a rebranding than a new product.

But for all that, this is still top-notch entertainment. You could say this is the movie that Scott wanted to release if the studio had not stepped in and taken out the shades of grey and tacked on a happy ending.

Here, the heroes, villains and themes and even the cyberpunk noir aesthetic feel familiar, but what this lacks in story originality, director Denis Villeneuve makes up in style.

As he did in Arrival (2016), and to some extent in Sicario (2015), Villeneuve shrouds his scenes in mystery. Everyone says less than they know, and mistrust and ambiguity infect every relationship. The only truly happy and truthful relationship in the movie is the one between, a replicant and his virtual girlfriend Joi, played Ana de Armas.

Harrison Ford returns from the first movie in a role that feels more like sentimental fan service, but he does a fine job doing what he does best these days: being old and grumpy.

Gosling, meanwhile, takes his lack of facial expression to Mount Rushmore levels. In this context, however, it works.

If there is a weakness, it is in the character of the villain, Wallace, an Elon Musk of the future, played by Jared Leto in the manner of a sleepy Marvel baddie who cannot be bothered to get theatrical.