Watch this as soon as you can…
Watching this film today, it is hard to believe it is merely set in 2019. It was made this year. The original version was released in 1982, with a director’s cut coming out ten years later. Yet, the stunning representation of a dystopian, decaying, much more mechanic version of Los Angeles are as impressive today as they were thirty-seven years ago. The attention to detail that went into the street settings, the costumes, and the breath-taking skylines all work towards creating one of the most immersive science-fiction experiences you’ll ever see. It is no wonder that it has inspired so many films in the genre since its initial release.
This film is famous for creating an forgettable mood and atmosphere. It is hard to describe what mood it creates, but it is even harder to shake that feeling off once the movie is over. Vangelis’ score is somehow other-worldly, passionate and ambient all at the same time. The chiaroscuro lighting helps to make this film feel incredibly dramatic, and adds to the power of the visuals.
Of course, the film is more than just a fabulous feast for the senses. Harrison Ford plays Deckard, an ex-“blade runner”, which is essentially a cop whose job is hunt and execute replicants (human-looking android servants who no longer obey their masters’ commands). Four such replicants, led by Roy, played by Rutger Hauer in his breakout role, are rebelling against their human masters. It is Deckard’s job to stop them. On a philosophical level, this premise allows the film to ask complex and thought-provoking questions. The morality of Deckard’s job is constantly under scrutiny as Deckard is moved by the very human memories implanted in Rachael’s brain, and certainly overwhelmed by the replicants’ lust for life, and their dread of knowing that they are pre-programmed to die very soon. Throughout, the replicants seem to value their humanity and their time on Earth more than the humans do, drawing attention to the cruel and arbitrary nature of Deckard’s role as executioner. Some have described this film as slow paced, but I prefer to use the words thoughtful and considered. The film asks important questions, and does not seek quick, nor easy, answers.
The performances of the film’s two main characters further blurs the lines between human and android. Subverting all expectations after playing heroic and charming roles like Indiana Jones and Han Solo, Ford’s performance is startlingly robotic. Very effectively, Ford plays a character who is often cold and laconic, which juxtaposes with Rutger Hauer’s performance, which expresses Roy’s aching desire for equality, and for life, magnificently. His famous “tears in rain” monologue cannot help but move. Despite its memorable technological achievements, it is Rutger Hauer’s performance as the emotional core of the film that I think of first when I look back on Blade Runner.
It is easy to see why Blade Runner is considered a classic. Everything from the visuals and the score work together smoothly to create an overwhelming and unforgettable experience, and the film tackles complex philosophical questions that audiences, thirty-seven years later, are still trying to answer.