blade runner 2049 harrison ford

Tears in the Rain

During the course of his investigation, K pieces together that the father of Rachel’s child is missing Blade Runner Deckard (Ford). He also begins to suspect, thanks to a memory that he’s long thought was implanted but may in fact be genuine, that he himself is the missing child.

He’s not.

The film does a very good job of both making this twist obvious while also making us believe it might be true. A lot of this has to do with the way Gosling plays the character, and how he evolves over the course of the film. When he first discovers that the memory from his childhood – involving a horde of bullies and a carved wooden horse – is real, he has a complete meltdown. Yet later he begins to long for the realization to be true. He wants to be that special child. He wants to be more human than human.

In the last few years, Gosling has proven what remarkable range he has. Looking at his characters in La La Land, The Nice Guys and now Blade Runner 2049, it’s remarkable to realize they’re all the result of the same actor. This is one of Gosling’s most controlled performances, comprised of moments of stillness punctuated with bursts of violence, and the actor handles it perfectly. It is by no means a showy performance, which might result in many to undervalue it.

K tracks down the person whose job it is to create false memories for replicants. These memories serve to make the lives of replicants better – they’re less prone to misery and despair if they have some sort of memory to cling onto, no matter how fake. The memory maker is Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), sequestered in a glass room due to an immune deficiency. Juri isn’t in much of the film, but her performance is remarkable. In the first of her two scenes, she constructs a memory with the precision of a painter creating a work of art, and Juri handles all of this remarkably well, bringing such raw emotion into the way she describes her process. When K asks her if she’s ever used real memories to create memories for replicants, listen to the way Juri says “Using real memories is illegal.” The slight inflection she puts on the words; the knowing smile she has when saying them. She’s telling us everything we need to know here, we just don’t know it yet.

K’s investigation leads him to the abandoned, orange-tinged remains of Las Vegas, where he finally confronts Deckard. Harrison Ford shows up much later in this film that I think anyone might be expecting. Ford is all over the deliberately vague marketing, so some may be expecting him to be a co-star to Gosling here. That’s not exactly what happens. Yet Ford’s performance is wonderful and essential to making Blade Runner 2049 work as well as it does. The actor, who in his later years had seemed to settle into the role of a gruff curmudgeon not really concerned with giving good performances anymore, has seemingly found a second wind revisiting his classic roles. He was lively and charming in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Here, gets to be gruff and standoffish, but there’s a longing Ford brings to the role that’s quite astounding. Here, Deckard is filled with a sadness and regret the likes of which we haven’t really seen from Ford ever. “Sometimes to love someone, you gotta be a stranger,” Ford’s Deckard growls at one point, and the line is heavy with remorse thanks to how Ford delivers it.

The film’s most emotional moment features no dialogue from Ford at all, but involves him nonetheless. By the film’s conclusion, Deckard is believed to have been killed, which means no one can use him to find his missing miracle child. Which means after 30 years of remaining a stranger, and staying far, far away, he can see her again. The child is, of course, Dr. Ana Stelline. She’s been only lead to believe she has an immune disease which keeps her isolated, when really her isolation was a way to protect her from those would want to dissect her and find out just what she is.

When Deckard enters the facility where Ana lives, she’s working on new memories. This time, a memory of snow, which swirls around her in her glass containment area as if she were trapped within a snow globe. She doesn’t know who Deckard is, and she doesn’t even turn to face him.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asks.

Here, Villeneuve cuts to Ford, standing on the other side of the glass. A slight smile turns up the corner of his mouth, and he places his hand firmly on the glass. It’s quick, and it’s small compared to the rest of what we’ve seen, but it’s the most human moment in the film, filled with longing and hope. Filled with second chances. It’s awe inspiring. And then it’s over.

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The Future

Blade Runner 2049 is, at the time of this writing, a box office disappointment. Domestically, the film took in $31.5 million, which is short of the early estimates. I can’t say I’m surprised. The film was a sequel to a cult phenomenon, and the deliberately obtuse trailers didn’t do it any favors. Plus, while Gosling and Ford may be respected, they’re not exactly box office juggernauts. Blade Runner 2049 was always going to be a tough sell. It’s also nearly three hours long, which can be overwhelming.

Yet while I’m not shocked the film underperformed, I am of course disappointed. This is a big, challenging, complex film. It struggles with issues of humanity, and life, and death, and beyond. It conveys it all in a grand, beautiful fashion, full of stunning moments that are unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a modern movie. This is a film to be studied, and marveled over, and revisited in years to come. It’s a Blade Runner movie, in other words.

It would be nice if audiences would reward such innovation. It would be nice if audiences would stop shelling out endless money for the same old same old and throw some of it at something different. Yes, Blade Runner 2049 is a blockbuster sequel, which means it may not be the most original idea of all time. Yet it’s approach to such material is so different, so unique, that it’s hard to think of this film as anything but original.

Sequels will come and go, and it might be some time before Hollywood throws this much money and this much prestige at a franchise staple like this. But at least we have this movie for now. It is a film that cries out to be seen on the biggest screen possible. To be experienced. It should’ve drawn more of a crowd. It should’ve received a warmer reception. In the end, it’s too bad Blade Runner 2049 won’t live at the box office. But then again, who does?

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net