Few directors can create a world within their film that causes the viewer to lose their sense of relation to their own world.
Denis Villeneuve, a Canadian director from Quebec, uses lighting, near-deafening sounds, and a transcendence from average film editing that emancipates the story from being stuck in Hollywood to feeling like one’s own experience.
The movie starts with an introduction to the intensity between blade runners and those they hunt: replicants. Blade runner Agent K, played by Ryan Gosling, tries to stealthily investigate the farm of a Nexus-8 replicant named Sapper Morton, played by Dave Bautista.
Few lines of dialogue set-up Agent K and Morton for a gut-wrenching fistfight that sees K slammed into dry wall repeatedly until his body is thrown through the hole created by Morton. Morton’s line after both men nearly incapacitate one another is that Agent K has never seen a miracle. K takes this moment to kill Morton, but his words stay with the agent.
The premise of the movie continues to gravitate around the question, “what does it mean to live?”
The characters portrayed by Gosling, Bautista, and their co-stars Harrison Ford and Ana de Armas all represent different types of life. Armas plays an artificial intelligence system that can project itself as a virtual reality, programmed to love its owner. Ford is on the run, in order to protect a secret that is far larger than the main protagonists can imagine.
You wouldn’t expect to find an answer to the meaning of life in a bleak dystopian sci-fi, but Villeneuve strives to answer the question anyhow. Without revealing major spoilers, Villeneuve answers the question in one beautiful, simplistic scene.
Visually, the movie is a masterpiece. Lighting is used throughout the movie to provoke emotions of fear, disillusion, and safety.
A sweeping bright white light in driving scenes makes the viewer feels as though a police spotlight is looking for them. Slow gliding lights across faces and shapes stir fear, as it seems almost like a horror movie setting up a shocking scene. Glows of blue, purple and yellow create a warm aura across the actors faces, letting the viewer know that in that instant, they are safe.
During intense shot transitions, Villeneuve uses the sound of a loud single beat, almost like a blaring car horn replayed on a synth. The sound immediately puts the audience on edge that what the character is heading towards will be dangerous.
There is no singular anti-hero in the film as each character is trying to make the world a “better” place, however they all disagree on what “better” means.
This theme adds to the odyssey that Villeneuve has created, in the journey each character faces that will change their future, and the future of their world as they know it.