I saw Blade Runner for the first time last week (bite me!) and my initial reaction when I first walked out of the cinema was a little underwhelming. For a movie with such a reputation, one that has grown enormously from its cult following and one that has garnered such high praise from the movie community as such a defining piece of film-making, I found it to be merely a “good” film. However, as I walked away from it, I found myself thinking about it more and more. I thought about what I didn’t like, about why I perhaps didn’t like it and I found that my position slowly began to change; Blade Runner was suddenly so much more.
The story is famous enough by now but, for those unaware, it begins with Harrison Ford as Deckard, a “Blade Runner”, who is responsible for hunting down “Replicants”. These are androids who work mostly on other planets besides Earth and appear to be human in every way except for two features- they are physically and mentally enhanced for work but only have a lifespan of about four years. Four Replicants, led by Rutger Hauer as Roy, have escaped their masters of the Tyrell Corporation who made them and illegally fled to Earth. Deckard suspects it is to extend their lifespan and so begins the hunt for the missing androids.
From this point on, if you are aware of the film and its many versions, I am reviewing the Final Cut and that is for two reasons: firstly, it is universally praised as the best and the version Ridley Scott was most happy with and secondly because it is the only version I have seen- that’s because I like the best version of things! So, no narration and no happy ending. But unicorns? Yes, there is a unicorn or two.
The plot of this film is incredibly simple to describe and was much less complex than I was expecting. It is essentially a cat-and-mouse game, with Deckard investigating and tracking down the Replicants. Of course, there are a couple of subplots but it is nothing new and definitely nothing to hail praise at. However, the questions that the plot raises and the themes at work are phenomenal. They are deep and meaningful ideas that are hidden below the surface of this simple story. Lines are said that come back to mean much more in retrospect and the film deserves multiple viewings. Hence why I just bought the Final Cut on Blu-ray.
The tone is also sublime. Truly truly sublime. It is dark and gritty before dark and gritty was the norm, because it certainly wasn’t in 1982. Surprisingly, it feels like a film-noir of old due to some fantastic writing. It is a world of science fiction dreams and one with an amazing production behind it as well. Every shot provides a gorgeous image- you really could frame each still and put it on the wall. And the visual effects- Wow! Blade Runner could have come out ten years ago and would have better effects than most films coming out. It isn’t shiny and beautiful as a film though, not in a conventional sense. It feels like a lived in world with flaws and blemishes.
Speaking of the flaws, there are some. I neglected talking about performances because I feel this is where a few chinks appear in the armour. Ford is good as Deckard, but did not blow me away. Perhaps this is something that will change on further viewing. He plays the role quite understated to say the least. The true stand-out performances are of Hauer and Sean Young as Rachael. Hauer is awesome, particularly with the closing monologue which is already up there with the best speeches in cinema. It remains with you like puddles in the rain (clunky reference alert!) Young meanwhile shines in her role, providing so many layers to her performance. In the clip above, she is doing so much with so few words. However, leading on from her work, my second and slightly more major flaw came with the relationship between Ford and Young. I think I comprehend why it transpires the way it does but I think it was certainly mishandled.
Blade Runner is a superb film and a defining piece of cinema. I would never have thought I would write that walking out of the cinema a week ago but this film gets into your brain and you relish that it is there. It worms its way around and fills your mind with more and more questions. However, it is a flawed masterpiece with some of its characters and is definitely a film for film fans so could be alienating. These issues prevent me giving it a perfect score. But if you love cinema, you will find something amazing in Blade Runner that you will enjoy to watch and to think about and to discuss with friends. And it has definitely made me excited for the sequel which I shall review soon… Very soon… Get watching!