Text begins Blade Runner. A lot of text, in fact. After the major crew members are shown against a black screen, more text is brought up telling us the world that we’re about to spend a couple of hours in. It tells us that, in this future, androids have been created, and that they weren’t too happy with being forced into the dangerous and menial work that the humans forced them to perform. They began to rebel, and are now banned on Earth.
Of course, since these androids (called “Replicants” in this film) are now so convincing that they could easily be mistaken for humans, people called “Blade Runners” have been hired to track them down and kill them. The best in the business is a man called Deckard (Harrison Ford), although he begins the film retired. He’s called back into duty after four Replicants jump ship and head to Earth, and it’s up to him to track them all down, one by one, and use whatever means necessary to kill them all.
Of course, he doesn’t know where they are, so he has to go through a series of methods to try to find them. We follow a couple of parallel stories throughout Blade Runner. The first involves Deckard and his quest to hunt down all of the Replicants, while the second shows us what the Replicants are doing with their time. Deckard eventually meets another Replicant, a girl named Rachael (Sean Young), who doesn’t actually know that she’s a Replicant. They have a love story that never quite works and feels forced. Eventually, Deckard is told that Rachael must too be killed.
As Blade Runner moves along, we begin to wonder why exactly the Replicants must be killed. We’re told soon after the film begins that they have a four year lifespan—if they live longer than that, they gain emotions and that’s bad for some reason—and that time period is drawing to a close. Most of the Replicants’ story involves them trying to figure out a way to extend that artificially-induced lifespan. Not harm the humans or anything like that; they just want to live longer, more normal lives.
As a result, they become the more human characters of the film, while the stoic Deckard is dehumanized through his killings. That’s all fine and good, and it brings quite a few questions to the table for the audience to consider, but from a narrative standpoint, it’s a bit of an issue. We don’t really have a character to root for, and there aren’t many stakes from Deckard’s standpoint. Whether he fails or not, the Replicants’ lifespan will be up shortly anyway.
Blade Runner is a film where the narrative serves two purposes: Explore some themes, and show us an amazing futuristic world.
The whole love story between Deckard and Rachael happens to quickly and doesn’t get enough focus to be a factor as well, even though it serves a valuable purpose. However, as I’m criticizing the plot, I think back on the film and realize that it isn’t the most important part of Blade Runner—that’s the world that was created here. Really, the plot is just there to give director Ridley Scott a reason to both explore the themes he wants to get across to an audience as well as show off the impressive world that he has crafted.
And make no mistake, this is an entire world that Scott as created. There are so many shots of the city where most of the action takes place that you’ll be sure to notice how much detail has gone into everything in terms of the location of the film. Blade Runner is a film that you can watch solely for the visual aesthetics and still have a good time. And while it’s a dark film, there’s enough light let in to allow us to always know exactly what’s going on, which is always a plus.
Without wanting to spoil anything, I’m quite sure that you’ll be left with a few questions after Blade Runner is finished. The method that this movie employs in this regard is the best kind: Instead of feeling unsatisfied because the film left you wondering what you just saw, it instead wants you to think about it without that unsatisfactory feeling. You got a complete film, but enough was left open for you to think about it afterward. You also have incentive to give it another watch, as now that you have seen it, you’ll want to look for clues in certain areas.
The performances are all fitting for the characters, and I can’t imagine them being played a different way. Had Ford given his character more emotion, the character wouldn’t be the same, and a longstanding debate would have been over. Have the main Replicant, Roy (Rutger Hauer), act less like a maniac, and he wouldn’t seem like a threat, even if he’s not much of one in the first place. When these two characters finally meet, you get a few amazing scenes. Look out for that, as the final few scenes in this film are spectacular.
Blade Runner is a film where the narrative serves two purposes: Explore some themes, and show us an amazing futuristic world. It doesn’t necessarily work when providing an entertaining story—the stakes are never all that high, and the love subplot doesn’t work—but this hardly matters when you look at the bigger picture. It’s not there to tell you an engaging story, as the world performs that function. This is a great film that rewards multiple rewatches.
Conclusion: Blade Runner is a great, deep film.
Recommendation: If you like sci-fi or neo-noir, you need to see Blade Runner.