Blade Runner 2049 ★★★★½

It's impossible for a movie to look better than this.

Where the rambling of an avid film student's critique usually starts with an infatuated commentary on the director, it's hard not to admit that the cinematography for Blade Runner 2049 is the dominant player. Roger Deakins is quite clearly an auteur in his own right, creating an extended universe of his own through the vibrancy of his lighting. Taking the steely blue pallet of Prisoners and merging it with the orange aura of Sicario, never have I felt so blown away by the consistency of colour coordination in a movie. If Blade Runner was the darkest of nights, 2049 is the brightest of days, with visuals so eye-popping you'd think Roy Batty had dug his thumbs deep into your sockets.

Mountainous structures of jagged steel architectures stick outward from this steampunk serenity, near matching the unthinkable achievements in set design from the original. Denis Villeneuve's continuation of this industrial world is a dazzlingly directed display of satisfying homages to its canon, but it's his continuation of world building which proves to be even more fulfilling. Hollywood's past has persistently proved that expanding on a beloved mythology is a dangerous game, but where The Matrix sequels slipped up and stumbled, 2049 stands up and conquers. No sequel has so perfectly captured the spirit of its predecessor and yet simultaneously drawn such a detailed spectrum of authenticity. Villeneuve effortlessly crafts what is arguably the most long awaited follow-up in cinema history, somehow enabling it to run entirely on its own terms. A flurry of masterful camera movement flows over its cerebral plot, the subtlety in direction serving as a thematically therapeutic contrast to its weighty themes. Modern-age directors such as Denis give film fans a genuine optimism for the future of cinema, allowing us to look forward to the future almost as frequently as we look back to the past.

Harrison Ford's reprise of Deckard revives the 2015 sentimentality of Han Solo's resurrection, but the distinctive difference here lies in the role feeling less like a caricature and more like a character. On a scale this giant, there's no possibility of avoidance when it comes to the audience's underline awareness of a character's iconic value, and yet Ford's emotionally charged performance makes us forget our preconceptions, allowing us to simply marvel the sheer sturdiness of his acting presence. In Ryan Gosling's case, never have I seen a performance so reserved and at the same time so indescribably intensified. Hampton Fancher's screenplay gives Gosling an opportunity in range he may never again receive, the empathy extracting precision of his deflated expressions working as a perfectly personified reflection of our corporate society. Of all the films Gosling's extraordinary gift has graced, his portrayal of K is his greatest achievement yet.

Gravitating towards the sinister side, Jared Leto gives an equally enchanting take as Wallace, epitomising that Frankensteinian fascination inherent in the minds of Science-absolved creators. It could be argued that Leto's antagonist deserved more of a conclusive culmination given the film's 164 minute run-time, but the third act's concentration on Deckard's arc won't render any complaints here. Ana de Armas' portrayal of Joi is another role that deserves recognition. Although her love for K seems realer than any, there's no greater sense of tragedy than knowing their relationship is entirely devoid of exclusivity. Nothing more than a mass-marketed product, Joi's presence allows for a true understanding of the loneliness K is forced to endure. The wonderment lies in the question of whether Joi does in fact feel love, herself too being a singular, intellectual state of consciousness. Matching this portrayal of lonesome longing, Sylvia Hoeks' role as Luv is comparably crushing. Watching on in fear as her creator takes pleasure in the killing of his imperfect creations, Luv releases her aggression on the victims of her path, her actions a contradiction with the uproarious upset she feels within.

Upon leaving the auditorium, the only disappointment I felt was that it had ended. As Zimmer's mechanical Vangelis tribute played over the credits, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratification for the history I'd just witnessed. Deakins' water-rippled luminosity was burned into my retinas, and Villeneuve's filmography had now joined the ranking of giants. If you haven't seen Blade Runner 2049 already, you've never seen the extent of what Villeneuve is truly capable of. You've never seen a cult continuation so rich with passion. You've never tasted the relief of a genuinely bad idea birthing something great.

You've never seen a miracle.