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Favorite movie of 2017 gives first ‘breathless’ moment

October 19, 2017

I never really understood the term “breathtaking.”

In all of my years spent watching movies, listening to albums and playing games, I have never once had a moment where something was so impactful it made me incapable of drawing breath.

But “Blade Runner 2049” has specific moments when I questioned whether the theater’s air conditioning was on, because I was becoming increasingly breathless.

A relentless test of obedience. An old, now lifeless, crime scene. I wondered to myself why I just couldn’t breathe during some of the scenes, and then I realized: there was no music playing during these scenes, aside from some tension-building sound effects at times.

That, combined with an overwhelming sense of atmosphere, created a truly breathtaking experience, and I’ll always remember “Blade Runner 2049” as the first movie that, quite literally, took my breath away.

Or, maybe it’s because I’m asthmatic.

Regardless, “Blade Runner 2049” is an absolutely unforgettable masterpiece. The soundtrack, composed by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, is one of the many parts that gives the film life. Sometimes, the original score can only be described as a “wall of synth,” setting the tone and atmosphere of the film right from the outset. In certain moments, the score is unrelenting. It feels like the weight of the music was crushing me, making my heart beat faster and my hair stand on end. It’s unsettling, impactful, beautiful, tense and ominous all at the same time. It does justice to the world it belongs to, and remains consistent to the tone and atmosphere of the film — in fact, I think the music itself is the tone of the film.

As the title of the film would suggest, the year is 2049, 30 years after the events of the first “Blade Runner.” Replicants, the movie’s version of androids, are artificially-created human beings with enhanced abilities for the specific roles they were created for.

Ryan Gosling’s character is a blade runner for the LAPD, a role which formerly belonged to Harrison Ford’s character from the first movie. Blade runners are detectives whose sole purpose is to hunt down and “retire” rogue replicants.

A lot has happened during the years between the events of the two films, and now replicants aren’t hunted down purely for existing — they’re hunted down for disobedience. Wallace Corporation has begun to produce a new age of replicants who are completely subservient, and with natural human lifespans.

And that’s about all I feel comfortable saying. Even small details, like the main protagonist’s name, can spoil this movie. If I haven’t been clear yet, allow me to emphasize that I’d very much like it if every single living human being went to see this film. But the less information someone has going in, the better.

“Blade Runner 2049” features one of the smartest-told stories in film all year, and the twists, turns and revelations won’t have the same impact both without knowledge of the first film’s plot, as well as possessing knowledge of this film’s plot.

Story aside, there’s still plenty to dissect. One of my favorite parts of the first “Blade Runner” was its cinematography. The color and framing of each shot gave that movie its personality, and it’s no different in “2049.” Roger Deakins, a legendary cinematographer, is in top form for “Blade Runner 2049.” Every single frame of this film is beautiful. The vibrant holographic advertisements glowing upon the rain-soaked streets of Los Angeles’ crowded streets paint fascinating images, and they’re perfectly realized thanks to Deakins’ masterful camerawork.

Denis Villeneuve, the director of “Blade Runner 2049,” just gets it. He has a fundamental understanding of not only what makes for a good cyberpunk movie, but what it takes to make a sequel that simultaneously builds upon the original film while enhancing it.

Cyberpunk is one of the most fascinating sub-genres of science fiction, emphasizing the advancement of technology in a dystopian future, forcing an introspective look at ourselves and the world we live in. “Blade Runner 2049” is indicative of one of the main tenets of science fiction: using technology to tell a story about what it means to be human.

This movie isn’t empowering. This movie isn’t about the good of humanity. This movie is going to make people uncomfortable. It’s offers a raw look at us humans and our behavior, asking many philosophical questions, all while telling a great internal story.

Hands down, “Blade Runner 2049” is my favorite movie of the year.