By Mark Walker
Director: Ridley Scott.
Screenplay: Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples.
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, Brion James, M. Emmett Walsh, James Hong, Morgan Paull.
Director Ridley Scott released Alien in 1979. For many, it stands as one of science fiction’s best. A mere three years after it though, he delivered Blade Runner.
This is the definitive of science fiction movies and Scott’s finest film.
It was wrought with production problems, a less than happy crew and abundant studio interference. The end result, however, would lead you to believe that everything went smoothly.
Los Angeles, 2019: Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a ‘Blade Runner’ – a unit of the police force that hunt and kill human clones, known as ‘Replicants’.
Replicants have been declared illegal – after a bloody mutiny on an Off-World Colony – and are to be terminated upon detection.
Some have escaped and prowl the streets of Los Angeles looking for answers from their creator. This is when Deckard’s services are called upon.
The film is loosely based on the novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by, the master of Sci-Fi, Philip K. Dick. If you are familiar with Dick’s immersive and intelligent ideas, then you’ll know exactly why this film works on so many levels.
On the surface, it’s one of the most gorgeous pieces of cinema ever committed to the screen. The opening shot of the vast, dystopian city of Los Angeles – dubbed “The Hades Landscape” – is an absolute feast for the eyes and a vision that’s yet to be beaten – even by today’s standards.
The city itself is stark, rain drenched and has a heavy Eastern influence. Giant global corporations are rife; slavery, overcrowding and a decaying environment permeate the proceedings.
Cinematographer, Jordan Cronenweth, can’t be praised enough for his eye in capturing this inhospitable future world. This is also helped, immeasurably, in it’s realisation by production designers, Lawrence G. Paull and Syd Mead.
Art director David L. Snyder and Douglas Trumbull’s exquisite special effects is also an additional benefit to the film.
Everyone pulls their weight in capturing the sheer visual beauty of this film. Underneath the luscious surface, courses a deep and philosophical pondering.
The reference to French philosopher Rene Descartes and his metaphysical statement “I think, therefore I am“, addresses the doubt we have as living beings and the nature of our existence. It’s a recurrent theme throughout the whole picture.
It’s a film that is renowned for being tinkered with. Several different cuts were released over the years.
The original had Harrison Ford supply a Philip Marlowe like voice-over, talking us through the events. This was deemed insulting to the audience as it caused continuity problems. However, I actually liked it. It gave a film-noir feel that complimented the look of the film but regardless of the cut you prefer, the film is still a masterpiece.
It also boasts excellent performances from its entire cast. Ford has been outspoken about his dislike for the film but he has rarely performed better and Rutger Hauer is commanding throughout – with his shiver inducing, “Tears in Rain” monologue, going down as one of cinema’s classic scenes.
The haunting soundtrack by Vangelis also deserves mention and accompanies Ridley Scott’s creativity perfectly.
It’s testament alone that with all the big budget special effects these days, that a film done in the early 80s still stands as one of the most amazing visual spectacles ever made.
And how many films do you come across, that not only look astounding but also channel Film-Noir and Cartesian doubt?
This connects on a visual, emotional and philosophical level that few films have ever achieved.