Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
Director: Ridley Scott
Running Time: 117 mins
Blade Runner is an American film about a man who must hunt down four replicants, androids almost indistinguishable from humans, who stole a ship from an off-world colony and returned to Earth to find the man who created them.
First things first, this is a review of The Final Cut. There are all sorts of versions out there but this seems to be the most praised and most accepted as canon, so that’s why I went for it.
Anyway, it’s fair to say that Blade Runner is a pretty intense film. Not only does it feature some insanely complex and deep emotional and philosophical elemetns within its story, but the combination of its neo-noir vibe with an intricately-designed future dystopia, as well as a hypnotic score and very slow pacing, all makes for two riveting, albeit heavy-going hours.
There’s a lot that makes Blade Runner stand out so much, but above all, it’s the design of the world it’s set in that’s so impressive to see. Firstly, the special effects are fantastic. For a film made in 1982 (albeit with a few updates in 2007), it looks absolutely stunning, with incredible panoramas of future cities filled with flying cars and dazzling lights and advertisments.
Of course, those effects aren’t there to give the impression of a shiny future like you see in Star Trek, rather the opposite. Throughout, the film proves a mesmerising visual experience, as it manages to take what is an extremely drab and grey environment and fill it with thrilling life, from the pulsating and eerie roads of downtown to the dilapidated tower blocks all over the city. It’s a big, technological future, but the world as we see it in this film is far from the nicest place to be, and it’s those gritty visuals that add a real depth and gravitas to Blade Runner as a whole.
It’s not just the visuals, though, as the film also impresses with what can only be described as one of the most amazing musical scores in movie history. Playing a series of downbeat futuristic tones at a fairly loud volume throughout, the score becomes a hypnotic and deeply evocative part of the world the film is set in, bringing yet another level of unnerving depression to the film’s atmosphere, and bringing you as a viewer all the more deep into the story.
Of course, as well as the cinematographers, special effects artists, production designers and composers, director Ridley Scott deserves a huge amount of praise for managing to bring all of these complex and bold elements of his film together so well.
The history of Scott’s creative control over Blade Runner over the various cuts of the film is infamous, but in this Final Cut, it’s clear that with maximum control, the film is able to feel 100% consistent in its incredibly bold atmosphere. Scott paces the story at a snail’s pace, and doesn’t even let it play out in the most conventional pattern, but the combination of those unique techniques with the film’s stunning visuals and music, means that Blade Runner becomes a sumptuous masterpiece wherever you look, and it means that it’s very difficult to lose interest or even take your eyes off the screen at any point throughout.
And that’s a real achievement, considering how heavy-going, and often ambiguous, the story itself is. While undoubtedly ingenious in its delivery, the plot of Blade Runner is hardly the world’s most accessible, and as such it’s never quite as moving as I feel it is aiming for.
Of course, it’s the sort of film that will surely require multiple viewings to really grasp some of its more complex and abstract themes, particularly those that are associated with the idea of humanity, the consequences of technological progress, the role of major corporations in society and a collection of fairly downbeat forecasts of the future, but I will warn you that upon first viewing, it’s a really hard film to fully get to grips with.
That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s in any way a boring film. Although its story may feature some fairly inaccessible themes, it’s not on the insanely abstract level of the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as there is still a fairly simple and very entertaining sci-fi crime story on the surface level that can easily be followed, and still make for two very intriguing hours.
I still wouldn’t suggest picking Blade Runner as a simple sci-fi adventure, because everything I’ve said above means that it doesn’t feel anything like that, but there is still an engaging central story following Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard as he attempts to hunt down a group of replicants trespassing on Earth, all the while struggling with his own personal crisis, which means that the film can easily be watched and appreciated without having to be analysed to the finest details.
Overall, it’s clear that Blade Runner isn’t an easy film, and particularly difficult to fully grasp upon first viewing, meaning that it occasionally lacks the intensely moving emotion it aims to provide. However, with an engaging central sci-fi story supported by boundless depths of fascinating and endlessly complex themes, as well as exceptional visuals and a hypnotic musical score throughout, Blade Runner proves a hugely memorable and riveting, if not heavy-going, experience, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.9.