Bladerunner is probably the greatest sci-fi film ever. It pushed forward the way people think about the future and offered a much more believable alternative vision than the usual pristine, plastic setting. This future is dirty, it has character and it is bleak. Based on the fantastic book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick the film takes a different direction.
Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a cop charged with hunting down rogue Replicants and terminating them. Replicants are genetically engineered humans created by the Tyrell Corporation for slave labour and fighting wars. The whole thing feels film-noir and Deckard is a familiar type of character despite the futuristic setting. He is a likeable detective, quiet and a bit crumbly round the edges, but there is more to him than meets the eye. Ridley Scott directed this and his cut is different to the final release, needless to say the director´s cut is far superior and elevates the film and the questions it raises way above the norm.
The production of the movie was apparently fraught with troubles and this sense of desperation or frustration seeps into the film, combined with the constant rain and dreamy soundtrack from Vangelis, to create, at times uncomfortable, but always compelling viewing. The sense of melancholy seems to help bring out the philosophical questions at hand, what makes us human? How do we know what is real? The hinted revelation at the end of the director's cut is incredible and as an idea, reminded me of the more recent film, the Matrix.
The film is also blessed with a quality cast, in addition to Harrison Ford; there is Rutger Hauer as psychopathic replicant Roy Batty, Sean Young as Rachael, and amongst others, Daryl Hannah as Pris the pleasure model. Rutger Hauer turns in the performance of his career in my opinion, nothing he ever did after this reached the heights of that beautiful scene at the end when he talks to Deckard and releases the dove.
The running time is 115 minutes of pure quality. Bladerunner is set in LA in 2019, instead of a giant leap forward you can see the new layered on top of the old, there is real depth to the setting. Huge glowing billboards shine out and strange dreamy singing permeates the rain filled air. The market Deckard visits is beautifully done and the Tyrell HQ is an amazing design, the technology advances are not ludicrously over the top as in many films in this genre. I loved the whole concept of real living animals being incredibly scarce, so that most people had never even seen a real snake and had to make do with craftsman's replica creations.
Deckard gradually tracks down the escaped Replicants, as they in turn track down their maker. It soon becomes clear that the Replicants are sentient beings; truly unique, despite their manufactured beginnings. The Replicants are made superior to normal humans, supposed perfect specimens, which makes them very dangerous and resourceful. It is easy to see why some people have drawn comparisons between the Replicants and fallen angels, cast down for rebelling against their creator.
As the story unfolds we realise that the Replicants have an in-built genetic self-destruct and are only designed to last for four years. They enlist the help of a genetic engineer to try and get access to Eldon Tyrell, the man who designed their consciousness. J.F. Sebastian, the engineer, is afflicted with Methuselah's syndrome causing accelerated aging and this seems to help the Replicants relate to him. I thought Sebastian; living in a huge leaky building with his robot creations was a very interesting character.
Deckard becomes entangled with Rachael, and as his investigation proceeds they fall in love. The film builds to an epic finale and I advise everyone to avoid the hacked on ending that ruined the original release, make sure you watch the director´s cut. It should leave you feeling slightly shell-shocked and is guaranteed to stimulate the philosopher in you.
A lot of effort went into making this film and it really paid off. Bladerunner was released in 1982 and has stood the test of time; it has managed to achieve that depth and believability that eludes so many sci-fi movies. Quality in every department makes this a classic and everyone should see it at least once.