Blade Runner: A Beautiful Nightmare

Rating: 9 out of 10.

And the themed week begins! It was a very close run thing on what to decide on, but a decision had to be made. Don’t worry if it your choice wasn’t picked this time – there were some great suggestions, and I’ll be sure to return to some of them.

But here we are, people. And it’s the end of the world as we know it. It does feel rather apt with the whole coronavirus debacle, but Fraggle’s End Of The World Movies has won first prize. And what’s a better way to start it than with an absolute classic?

Blade Runner, the 1982 sci-fi dystopia, follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired ‘blade runner’, who’s called back into action to retire – a nice way of saying kill – four renegade replicants: Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Pris (Daryl Hannah), Leon Kowalski (Brion James) and Zhora (Joanna Cassidy).

I’ve never been too infatuated by science fiction. Y’know, aliens, space ships, cyborgs – it gets old, fast. Even classics of the genre like Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars can feel predictable and outdated, regurgitated too frequently to have any trace of originality. Perhaps that’s not their fault directly, and rather a dearth of new ideas in a floundering industry, but it speaks volumes than Blade Runner feels as new and innovative than ever.

It’s a film that transcends simple genres. In fact, it’s best description is probably that it’s larger than any one genre. It’s a neo-noir, it’s a sci-fi, and it’s an action. The 1940 detective noir, complete with stark lighting, moody shadows, neutral clothing, and constant acid rain, mixed with 21st century futurism – replicants, Voight-Kampff tests and creepy talking Kaiser dolls – creates the perfect dystopia.

Obviously, you can’t talk about this film without mentioning its stunning visuals. The fire belching city, the rain swept streets, the claustrophobic smoke, the massive advertisement screens and ominous blimps. In 1980s Los Angeles, there was a particularly high influx of Asian immigrants, which goes to explain the melting pot of miscible culture here. Food bars, animal markets and hurried babbling all create a tangible atmosphere. This a rotting world, with smothering pollution, artificial animals and second-class citizens. It comes across as an abandoned planet left to become landfill, ecosystems wiped out and the air smoggy. And, while the time period may not be exactly accurate (the film is set in 2019), Blade Runner feels so realistic to the point that it’s no longer science fiction, but a contemporary thriller. Only flying cars feel uber-ambitious here, but the rest is a stark reminder of the downfall we have all ready begun.

Is it an End Of The World Movie? There’s no imminent threat to life here, and in the theatrical cut there’s actually a happy ending. Yet, Blade Runner feels like one of the best of these around. Similarly to its slow churning plot and deliberate characters, this is a world slowly crumbling to its core. It’s far scarier than a meteor or alien invasion, because it’s real – it’s right in front of us. The ravaging and rapid explotation of advancing technology in striving for a perfect capitalistic world and the effects of that on society and environment is bitterly and beautifully captured here.

Because, after all, Blade Runner is a beautiful film. There’s a dreamlike quality to it, something larger than all of us. Much like many of the characters – Deckard, Batty, or even J.F. Sebastian with his rapidly ageing Methuselah syndrome – the film has a steely surface, but a tender, wounded, conflicted and synthetic soul. As Batty dies, we wonder whether those are tears in his eyes, or his ever present sweat from the apocalyptic climate, or the hammering torrent of water. Is there even a difference? Life is short and meaningless, but that’s all the more reason to savour it. When it’s time to die, there’s nothing to hide – and that’s something we may have to realise sooner rather than later.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

It’s a surprisingly philosophical film. It makes us question the meaning of life, the precariousness of living, the universal morals of our world. Who are the bad guys? Who are the good guys? What does it truly mean to be alive? What does it mean to be a replicant? Humans have long lusted for blood and violence, and however civilised we pretend to be, our primal instincts for survival will always win – we will always feel safer after pressing the red button. While Deckard is sent out to kill the replicants, his life a chore and every second dismal and repetitive, Batty is trying to live, gain more time. Replicants only have a four year life span that must be savoured before death. Humans have years and years – life is cheap, common. By saving Deckard at the end of the film, Batty gives him a chance to be reborn.

I think there is a Christian subtext there: Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) plays God as the creator of the replicants; Batty is the Christ of the story, nail in hand and dove in arm, asking his father for more time, but, ultimately, must die; and Deckard is provided salvation and cleaned of his sins.

So the question is: who is the real evil? God? Jesus? Or the humans saved?

Ridley Scott’s direction is stunning. Harrison Ford is… Harrison Ford – his strained relationship between Scott and subsequently dour attitude only goes to improve Deckard’s character. Rutger Hauer, who unfortunately passed away in 2019 (coincidence?), gives a performance which can only be described as marvel. Ford didn’t like Sean Young either, but hers is one of the most interesting stories throughout, where a person has to question their own existence. I love Gaff (Edward James Olmos) – his mysterious, bit-part, origami making recital is compelling, and leads to a greater question:

Is Deckard a replicant? Originally, that wasn’t how it was intended, but the evidence is undeniable. Whether it’s Gaff’s memories planted in his head, or if he’s still a human, we’re asked – was any of it worth it? Is it now time for him to live? It’s another twist ending, and another brilliant one.

For obvious reasons, Blade Runner is not a comfortable film to watch. It’s violent. It’s harsh. And it delves deep into the vulnerability of life. Struggling at the box office at the beginning, it’s a film that took many cuts till it reached perfection – but now, thirty nine years later, it is very close. It’s one of those films that requires at least two watches to fully appreciate, but possibly thousands to fully understand.

Blade Runner – 9 out of 10

82 thoughts on “Blade Runner: A Beautiful Nightmare

  1. I think most movies based on a Philip K. Dick novel are pretty unique. I love Blade Runner but only really understood it after I was 30 or something. Depending on your situation on life, the film reflects those feelings somehow. Great review and can’t wait to see what’s next!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t mention the book, and it’s a good read, but the film will always win in my opinion! 😉 I agree about the depending on your situation point – I really just feel sorry the people who never come round to understanding to Blade Runner. Thanks Neon – always a pleasure!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It is such a good movie. I watched it first unknowingly on a tiny screen on a bus ride, and it captured my complete attention. (BUT, science fiction deserves more credit!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you’ve rewatched it! The bigger the screen, the better, in my opinion. I know, sorry for insulting science fiction! Some great things have come out of it, and cinema is better for the genre, of course – Blade Runner, 2001… and don’t worry: with his theme, there’s plenty more of it to come!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Fraggle wins again! Grrrrrr!

    So which version of this did you watch? Aren’t there something like five different cuts out there?

    It’s a great one. And so much better than the 2049 version, which also looked great but which had such a bad story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I know – but Fraggles was good, it has to be said. I’ll definitely be returning to some (including WTF week, possibly…) when I get the time.

      I watched, what most intellects such as us view as the only accepted cannon, the final cut. No narration. No happy ending. Nice dose of violence. Lots of unicorns. And perfect visuals.

      Haven’t watched the 2049 version, I don’t think, or only smatterings of it. Mainly because I fear the worse. Blade Runner really doesn’t need a sequel. And, four hours and forty one minutes? Really? Might visit in the future, despite your warnings…


      1. 2049 is not a must see, some nice cinematic stuff but I don’t really remember the story much. I am not an intellect so liked Deckard droning on, and the happy ending, I suppose I’d best watch the final cut at some point and depress meself.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Absolutely Otsy, I’m not a cineaste or a critic, I suck ears for a living, but I love my movie nights and finding out about the ones I watch. I only aced your quizzes because I’m good at google, but Alex’s are really unfathomable no matter the search terms! People who know the answers without google have my utmost respect. Anyway I have stopped my charlatan ways now, the professionals have the floor!

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, I’m really letting the side down. I looked everywhere – not a single pork chop from this film. It’s… it’s horrible. I’m going to have to lower it’s rating from a nine to… 4? 3? I’m not even sure if that’ll cut it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Obviously whoever is in charge of Movies, needs to get their backside in gear and make the Definitive Porkchop Edition of Bladerunner.

          I’m giving this movie 0 Oinks out of 10….

          Liked by 1 person

        2. The sixth and final cut of Blade Runner: Porkchop Edition! I like it! I’ll get Scott on the film and tell to get cutting the old tape!

          I agree with your rating and suggest this film… BE TAKEN TO THE TROUGHS! BOOM!

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Darth Vader? C3PO? Jabba the Hut? If I just list Star Wars characters I’m sure something will come to mind. Yes, sorry ol’ “animations EXCLUDING Disney and Pixar” wasn’t chosen this time – but I can almost certainly guarantee that one day, I’ll review a few animation films, and a few of those? Won’t be from Disney or Pixar. Promise is promise.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I don’t care about my idea not being chosen. Considering I consider cinema’s to be temples of filth (haha, man, that got Dix’s goat good!) the less the better actually.

        When I think Star Wars nowadays I think dull spoons heated red hot and Lucas tied down to an ant hill….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cinema are temples of filth. Finally, someone has the guts to say it. I praise you, good sir. And Star Wars, I’m proud to say, is the very foundation of those temples. God bless cinema!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. You’re in a real blessing mood today.
          Trying to keep those shrieking psychic babies away from you, aren’t you? I’m on to your little game….

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Blade Runner is one of my favourite films and probably my favourite movie from the decade of the 1980s.

    I”ve never been a sci-fi fan but I”ve never really thought of Blade Runner as a typical sci-fi film.

    To me, it’s a 1940s Film Noir transferred to a futuristic setting.

    It is as you say a deeply philosphical film.

    The philosophical subject of metaphysics brought to the big screen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree – it’s not your typical sci-fi at all, definitely a dystopian noir, which is a very interesting genre. In fact, it’s pretty much your classic detective story, just with replicants and origami and metaphysics. I’d like to see more like Blade Runner, but everyone who’s ever attempted has failed. It’s just got the perfect enigma.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh yeah! Another of my 10/10! 😀
    2049 is slick and soulless. The plot is dumb. The visuals are stunning. We’re infinitely better off with the original.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I know you’re stingy with praise, Otsy, that’s why I will be lavishing it in your stead 😉 Your quest for a perfect movie bears some resemblance to the quest for the Holy Grail… and it’s probably gonna end up being just as successful 😜

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful review of a sensational film. You covered the bases well. Personally, this movie is my top 10 of all time. The World that the movie takes place in is hauntingly beautiful. And “tears in the rain” could be the best poetic prose in film ever! Thank you so much 🙏🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, D&E! I agree – this would probably be in my top ten too. It’s a stunningly beautiful film, and there’s not much like it. Some of the dialogue just takes your breath away. “It’s too bad she won’t live. But then again, who does?”

      Liked by 2 people

    2. For an SF classic that succeeds for giving us important questions rather than answers, Blade Runner is matched only by 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris. Even for those who aren’t SF fans, for a futuristic film that for obvious reasons can make us particularly think about how our world is now, especially about what it truly means to be human, Blade Runner deserves repeated viewing more than ever before.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Anything less than 10/10 for this is unacceptable! I wrote this post about the film in 2015, and since then, I have posted a ‘Top Ten’. BR is still at number one of that top ten, for so many reasons. Not least the amazing visuals.

    Blade Runner: Why it’s so good.

    So far, this film has never been bettered, in my not so humble opinion.
    Cheers, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I also included it in a post on ‘Unforgettable Films’, and wrote this.

    Some films stay with you, and get better every time you see them. You can recall scenes at will, remember the lighting, the curl of cigarette smoke, even the view from a window. In 1982, I watched Ridley Scott’s new film, ‘Blade Runner.’ I had never seen anything like it, and left the cinema feeling completely overwhelmed. Next year, it will be thirty-five years old. Yet it is as fresh today as it ever was, and I can watch it again and again; whether the original version, or one of the numerous director’s cuts released since. I can see Daryl Hannah spraying black paint on her face, or the fear sensed by J.F. Sebastian, when he meets Roy Batty. I will certainly never forget this modern masterpiece of film-making.

    As you can tell, I really like it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re bang on the money, Pete. I agree with every word. It’s amazing how certain films that bring that flood of emotion – that overwhelmed feeling of being able to witness true art. Blade Runner is one of those certain films.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Interesting and singular choice considerong the theme (and REM is also an excellent choice). I like that. I understand you’re not fond of SF (genre I like very much), but we can consider “Blade Runner” as no SF anymore. Its prescience (Dick was a visionary writer, but the Novel is qui different from the film) is so amazing that the film fascinates me now as at the my first viewing. These incredible images made by Scott and his team (among the brightests futurist engineers, Syd Mead first on the line) are so impressive still today.
    I think star is missing below the title. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree. It’s no longer SF, but a modern day action film. Everything about it is nigh on perfect. So why no ten? I’ll never give a ten! Never! Nothing is ever perfect, so unless something just knocks the wind out of my sails completely, then The Godfather: Part II with 9.5 may be the highest we ever go…

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Can’t believe you chose Apocalypsia this over my suggestion. I saw this on the big screen on a couple of weeks ago. The Final Cut since there are so many different versions. and it knocked me out as it had done on first viewing and ever since.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know, French crime is the best! I was planning to do something along those lines when I first started this blog, so French crime week will almost certainly happen in the future. But Blade Runner? The perfect left hook that leaves the viewer out cold.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m not a Blade Runner fan actually but I really loved your review! I once wrote a rhymed review of my own because I was requested to, I even read the book to try and understand something more, but still don’t get this movie…

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Blade Runner is indeed a most unique and most original SF classic. I enjoyed the sequel too, and that’s fairly for my own reasons. Thank you for your quite insightful review.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Artistically and atmospherically it’s very beautiful. Seeing Harrison Ford come full circle in a way as Rick Deckard is quite awesome.

        Liked by 3 people

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