Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Hampton Fancher (screenplay), David Webb Peoples (screenplay)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
Well, I felt it was finally time to watch a particular cult classic from 1982 with the impending release of its sequel Blade Runner 2048 approaching fast. I have of course heard and read much about the original Blade Runner, but for whatever reason, had never gotten round to seeing it.
I was a little apprehensive of what to expect going in because of its setting, year of release and the tendency for sci-fi films of that era, with a few notable exceptions, to not really age well. I’m pleased to say though that it was visually quite impressive for a 35 year old film and the slightly optimistic 2019 landscape (flying cars and all) was interesting to say the least. Ridley Scott clearly took inspiration from Star Wars in the way he chose to blend the futuristic setting with a gritty, lived in feel.
Story wise, it’s a pretty straight forward, double perspective plot that follows main protagonist, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an ex-police officer forcibly returned to active service to track down and ‘retire’ four Nexus-6 replicants. Just to be clear, the latter are not smartphones, but instead advanced, bioengineered beings created by the frankensteinian Tyrell Corporation. With just a four year lifespan, they have went awol in search of an extended existence and are essentially given death sentences as a result.
It opens with one such replicant, Leon Kowalski (Brion James) being put through the ‘Voight-Kampff’ test by a Blade Runner, in a rather smokey office environment, to determine whether he’s human or not. The test working by assessing the emotional response to a series of questions. This doesn’t end well for poor Holden (Morgan Paull), who’s quickly shot and killed, kicking off the action in brutal fashion. Step forward the aforementioned Deckard who then begins the unenviable task of tracking them down.
During all of this we have the synchronous story of lead replicant, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Leon for a short while and his beautiful, acrobatic sidekick, Pris Stratton (Daryl Hannah). They track down an engineer by the name of J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), who incidentally has a similar affliction via a strange glandular disease, for the sole reason of arranging a meeting with their creator Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel). A meeting which unsurprisingly ends in tears when it’s established there’s no way of extend their short lifespan.
Harrison Ford is a match made in heaven for the role of Deckard. A tired looking man, reluctant to get involved, who ends up deeply conflicted when he develops a relationship with Rachael (Sean Young), an experimental replicant with implanted memories. He’s got the right level of gruffness and humanity, and brandishes his iconic gun with all the swagger and confidence of Indy or Han Solo. He takes a fair beating at times too, often at the hands of his female colleagues and just carries the film with absolute ease.
Likewise, I thought Rutger Hauer was an exceptional villain (if you can call him that). Yes, his character is a bit of a cold, psychopathic, killer. But he has justifiable reasons for this. The oppressive police and government within the world have effectively outcasted him and the others, forcing them underground and leaving them living in perpetual fear of their lives. He’s got a bit of an iconic look going on with the bleached blonde hair and piercing, blue eyes and he plays the role very well. The final scenes with him and Deckard were riveting.
Other noteworthy performances for me, were Daryl Hannah and Sean Young. Pris, something of a manipulative, deranged, acrobatic seductress, had more than a passing resemblance of an 80s Harley Quinn and Hannah was perfectly cast and played the part brilliantly. Young was impressive too as the conflicted replicant Rachael. Her romantic sub-plot with Deckard and the thematic questions it posed brought a refreshing change of pace to the film, which was quite frankly frenetic.
I throughly enjoyed watching Blade Runner and although it’s aged well, there is some dated parts in it, most notably the retro computer screens, but that’s only to be expected and certainly didn’t take me out of the experience. There was some really good performances, excellent cinematography and the plot managed to captivate me for the entirety of the running time. I like the thematically complex nature of the story, which is nearly nonexistent in similar films these days. It questioned the uneasy relationship between humanity and AI, the meaning of life, consciousness and even mortality itself.
It also finished with an excellent, ambiguous ending that left the ball in the viewers court with regards to Deckard and whether he himself was a replicant. I love me some ambiguity in movies, so well done Blade Runner.
I couldn’t possibly finish this review without giving a special mention to that Roy quote. “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain”. I thought that was a beautiful moment and incredibly poignant.
I’m sure most people will have seen this classic, but if you haven’t then give it a shot. It’s a brilliant film.