Thursday, August 27, 2009

Film Review: BLADE RUNNER (1982, Ridley Scott)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 117 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, M. Emmet Walsh (MISSING IN ACTION, BLOOD SIMPLE), Edward James Olmos, Joe Turkel (the Bartender in THE SHINING), James Hong (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA), Brion James (HOUSE III), William Sanderson (DEADWOOD), Joanna Cassidy (THE OUTFIT) . Cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth, music by Vangelis. Based on the novel DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? by Philip K. Dick.
Tag-lines: "Man Has Made His Match... Now It's HIS Problem!" Wow.
Best one-liner: "Wake up, time to die!" (often and enthusiastically quoted by Abel Ferrara on his commentary track for THE DRILLER KILLER)
Schlitz Sign Sightings: 2

On a TV, BLADE RUNNER's an essential film; on the big screen, it's a revelation. From the ominous opening tones and expository scroll to the first shots of fireballs bursting forth from futuristic smokestacks, the viewer is immediately aware that they're about to embark on something enrapturing, exceedingly rare, and immaculately crafted.

Director Ridley Scott, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth (ROLLING THUNDER, ALTERED STATES CUTTER'S WAY), special effects artist Douglas Trumbull (2001, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND), and production designer Lawrence G. Paull (BACK TO THE FUTURE) merge their talents to create a moody, jaw-dropping, futuristic atmosphere, the likes of which hadn't been seen since METROPOLIS and will likely be never seen again, so long as Hollywood clings to its CGI like a cured fool to his needless crutch.

Though not following his work to the letter, the film wonderfully replicates the Philip K. Dick 'aura'- a world of confusion, filth, wonderment, paranoia, disquiet, and mystery. A smoky Middle-Eastern nightclub with shades of PEPE LE MOKO; an icy laboratory where eyeballs are fashioned from bubbling, frigid vats; a dark, rain-soaked alley, intermittently lit by neon and the flashing headlamps of police spinners;

a sooty, decaying space, full of mannequins, robots, and incessantly chortling mechanical toys; a musty, shadowy, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired apartment

where Harrison Ford's Deckard pours bottle after bottle of stinging hooch down his throat– the sheer creativity and perfect realization of these places leaves them etched upon your mind, long after the film has finished. Combined with an ethereal Vangelis score, one sits, transfixed and with mouth agape, as one might while experiencing one of the great cathedrals.

Violence is handled with firm-handed Dickian weight: visceral and distressing, full of shrieks and spasms and existential dread. The acting is superb: Sean Young's art deco naivete, Brion James' detached brutality, Rutger Hauer's unsettling perfection, James Hong's yammering hermit, Joe Turkel's thick-lensed mogul, Edward James Olmos' craggy visage, William Sanderson’s sweet gullibility,

Daryl Hannah's raccoon-eyed urchin, and M. Emmet Walsh’s oily countenance all function to develop a colorful landscape of characters, remaining true to Dick's wider vision. Ultimately, Scott possesses a complete confidence in his material, and never second-guesses, never concedes a point, never gives in to showcasing some 'flavor of the month,’ and consequently has created a languid, timeless work of art.

-Sean Gill


skeelo said...

Phenomenal movie! Ha I'll have to check out Ferrara's commentary track just to hear him quote this movie. I love this movie.

Sean Gill said...

As every victim in THE DRILLER KILLER meets their demise, Abel gleefully intones either, "Wake up, time to die," or "Uh-oh spaghetti-o!" It's pretty fulfilling.