Widely regarded as one of the most well-made science fiction films ever, ‘Blade Runner’ – Ridley Scott’s 1982 loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ – is a film that, unlike many other science-fiction films from the same era, still holds up remarkably well in terms of both entertainment value and aesthetics. Set a future dominated by pollution and corporatocracy, the film stars Harrison Ford as Richard Deckard, the titular “blade runner”, whose job is to “retire” (i.e. kill) several androids (called ‘replicants’ in the film) who have gone rouge and escaped from the mining colony they had initially been stationed at. Though quite seasoned at the art of hunting rebellious androids, Deckard meets his greatest challenge in Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), a replicant who has escaped with several others in an attempt to find their creator and extend the limit of their preprogramed lifespan.
Deftly combing numerous elements of classic film noir with typical science fiction tropes (a combo that has since gone on to become a sub-genre in its own right), Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ is a hauntingly beautiful film despite (or because of) its grim and cynical atmosphere. The rain-soaked and soot-stained buildings that compose the world’s immensity create a dark but curious atmosphere, juxtaposed with flashy video-billboards and other advances that seem to predict with subtle eeriness the overabundance of advertising that has since become a daily annoyance in our own world.
Although relying on technology that is far older than current CGI, Scott keeps the computer-generated imagery to a minimal, an action that proved to be for the best given that many of CGI-saturated sci-fi films from the 1980’s now look shamelessly corny and ridiculous compared to more modern fares. Indeed, the world of ‘Blade Runner’ is one that feels completely real and tangible despite its use of CGI, its gloomy outlines, polluted streets and corporate-choked atmosphere not only appearing genuine, but also having since influenced countless subsequent science-fiction films since its debut some thirty-years ago.
Harrison Ford is perfect as the cynical and tough Deckard, staring in the film during the prime of his career and playing Deckard with such ease and skill that one can’t help to compare him to some of the hardboiled PI’s of Hollywood’s past, in particular Humphrey Bogart’s turn as Philip Marlowe in ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946). Brash, tough and sardonic, Ford manages to portray Deckard as a strong but all-too-human man whose pursuit of the replicants he’s charged with taking out is a mission we the audience can support despite Deckard/Ford’s use of deadly force on the semi-sympathetic replicants.
Equally impressive is Rutger Hauer’s performance as Roy Batty, the leader of the criminal replicants. Though Batty, as his name implies, is less than a little unhinged (and commits more than one murder during the course of the film), Hauer manages to inject a strong dose of humanity in an otherwise brutal monster, his most poignant moment coming near the end of the film when he delivers the brief and now oft-quoted ‘tears in rain’ speech to Deckard atop an apartment building during the film’s climax: “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain...”
Also deserving of some praise is Edward James Olmos, whose supporting role as the mysterious and somewhat ominous police detective, Gaff, is engaging without being distracting, his cryptic dialogue and raspy delivering creating a character that simultaneously comes off as being a friend and an enemy to Ford’s Deckard, creating a slow-burning tension between the two characters that only adds to the film’s overall suspenseful atmosphere.
Aesthetically beautiful, well-acted, suspenseful, engaging, Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ is one of the best, if not the best science fiction film ever, its influence on subsequent science-fiction films too ubiquitous to list and too pronounced to be denied. Boasting a terrific cast and a competent director with an eye for pacing and editing, ‘Blade Runner’ is a film that can be enjoyed by everyone, be they a fan of science-fiction, or just a lover of well-made, intelligent films.
Find the nearest Blockbuster (assuming they still exist) near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.