Blade Runner is a film filled with possibilities. Its entire conception is based on a fantastical, yet eerily plausible future. Its characters embody noir pastiches while harboring oceans of secrets within their real and synthetic hearts. Flying automobiles play wardens to impoverished masses that tread down rain slicked unforgiving streets. At its core, this is a story about the power of identity and exploring how something so intrinsic to the human experience could be developed by a machine. Taking grand concepts that science fiction auteurs still quarrel about over 30 years later and deconstructing them through a detective story with an edge, Ridley Scott created a one of kind movie.
Deckard is an ex Blade Runner, a detective who hunts down rogue androids (called Replicants) who is brought out of retirement to hunt down a pack of replicants led by a soldier model named Roy Batty. His investigation brings him to the doorstep of the machines' creator, Tyrell and there he meets a mysterious woman who changes not only his notions of humanity, but his entire destiny. Adapted from the legendary story by Philip K. Dick, Hampton Fancher and David People's script pares down the novel's content into a city based neo-noir whose festering heart is alien territory for its replicants visitors. The concept of acceptance with respect to the androids is essential because it is this longing that allows them to cherish and comprehend the essence of humanity more than the agents of order who oppose them. Their understanding of their sanctioned exterminations by that which they seek to emulate is a heartbreaking revelation that Scott masterfully injects into the story.
With the first note of Vangelis' timeless score, the viewer is transported into another world. The music contrasts the grim visuals of an apathetic machine world to instill a sense of wonder within the audience, mimicking the Replicants' dual natured feelings towards their creators. Jordan Cronenweth's eclectic cinematography is a true gift, blending the smoke filled frames of noir classics with larger than life electronic vistas dominated by soulless corporate headquarters, whose pyramid like monuments tower over economical slaves below. Neon lighting dominates the street level, creating a glitzy illusion in which the harsh realities of indentured labor are hidden behind the velvet curtain of a strip club. Lawrence G. Paull's production design commands these elements to create the essence of world that previously existed solely in our dreams, taking classic black and white compositions from detective thrillers and infusing them with a barely familiar vision of a mortgaged American future.
Games and chance are a constant theme. Sebastian and Tyrell are locked in an endless chess competition, while Sebastian faces his own premature mortality while surrounded by intelligent toys of his own creation, symbolizing the universal struggles of life, regardless of how it is superficially defined. Edward James Olmos’ Gaff leaves Origami calling cards at key points in the narrative, leaving a paper bread crumb trail through a metallic forest in a neo-fable that uses Greek tragedy as a foundation for a host of thought provoking arguments which remain hotly debated by fan today.
Everything coalesces into a corrupt Baroque style that haunts every frame. Michael Kaplan and Charles Knode’s costume design handles the economical divide with lavish ensembles that enshroud Sean Young’s synthetic femme fatale with an air of hesitant nobility and the scores of street walkers with grungy, rain soaked piecemeal outfits. Deckard’s iconic trench coat is both a perfect representation of the past and a battered symbol of a fatigued future limping towards extinction. Marvin Westmore’s makeup design is an essential component, both with Sebastian’s rapid aging and Daryl Hannah’s ghoulish countenance during the final sequence, anchoring the practical against Douglas Trumbull’s trend setting special effects.
Harrison Ford's Deckard has been the subject of much controversy over the years. The world weary modern gunslinger is of his best performances, simultaneously evoking traditional tough guy swagger before eviscerating the illusion during the final act. Ford straddles the divide between grizzled protagonist and vulnerable knight errant perfectly, constantly reacting and evolving with each carefully designed reveal. Aside from doing actual detective work, a trend that is woefully devoid in many modern films, one of the most refreshing things about Deckard is that he loses almost more than we wins. While some may consider it browbeating the fact that Deckard is saved twice by the intervention of replicants speaks not only to Ford's courageous abandonment of the tough guy facade, but also to Blade Runner's powerful theme of tragedy.
Rutger Hauer’s memorable rebel android Batty has the honor of the film’s most memorable dialogue and his precious screen time with Ford is outstanding, perfectly summarizing the gargantuan concepts preceding the finale with verbal poetry uncommon to a picture such as this. Hauer’s blazing white hair and piercing eyes overshadow his towering physique, presenting him as a fallen angel, an outsider looking for acceptance who understands the evils of the world who will never him embrace him.
Available now for digital rental, Blade Runner: The Final Cut is Ridley Scott's masterpiece. There have been several versions of the film released over the years, however many film aficionados would argue that this version is the preferred viewing experience. The main differences involve the removal of Deckard’s voiceover and changes to the ending, with the final cut being the only version of the film that Scott himself had complete control over. With the highly anticipated sequel, Blade Runner 2049 set to debut in October, many film fans, both those familiar with and new to Scott's magnificent achievement will be viewing the film in preparation. What they will find is that Blade Runner is a one of kind, lightning in a bottle experience that is the definition of cinematic perfection and is one of the defining elements of modern film.
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