MOVIE RE­VIEWS

Blade Run­ner 2049 The Glass Castle Re­turn to Mon­tauk

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - TV & FIlm - Dec lan Burke

If Blade Run­ner (1982) of­fered a singular vi­sion of a bleak and piti­less fu­ture,

Blade Run­ner 2049 (15A) is darker still. Strug­gling to re­cover from a global sys­tems fail­ure in the 2020s, the greater Los Angeles area now re­sem­bles a postapoc­a­lyp­tic world, the once daz­zling cityscape now a dim, flick­er­ing shadow of its for­mer self. Some things never change, how­ever: K (Ryan Gosling) is a blade run­ner, a hu­manoid repli­cant charged with hunt­ing down mal­func­tion­ing ex­am­ples of his own kind and ‘re­tir­ing’ them. Dur­ing a rou­tine op­er­a­tion, how­ever, K un­wit­tingly un­cov­ers a po­ten­tially world-shat­ter­ing se­cret … Writ­ten by Hamp­ton Fancher and Michael Green, and di­rected by De­nis Vil­leneuve, Blade Run­ner 2049 is – on first view­ing, at least – that rare beast, a se­quel to a clas­sic film that is as in­no­va­tive as its source ma­te­rial. Vil­leneuve has as­sem­bled a fine cast, which in­cludes Robin Wright as K’s hard­bit­ten su­pe­rior Lieu­tenant Joshi, Jared Leto as the de­ranged vil­lain Nian­der Wal­lace, Ana de Ar­mas in a poignant turn as the holo­gram Joi, Sylvia Hoeks in the mem­o­rably strik­ing role of Wal­lace’s en­forcer Luv, and Har­ri­son Ford repris­ing his role as the orig­i­nal blade run­ner, Deckard, but the real joy here is in the com­bi­na­tion of Den­nis Gass­ner’s fab­u­lous pro­duc­tion de­sign and Roger Deakin’s jaw-drop­ping cin­e­matog­ra­phy. Ryan Gosling’s K is suit­ably mono­syl­labic, cyn­i­cal and, yes, Kafkaesque as he wan­ders the sci-fi waste­land, and Gosling de­liv­ers a com­pelling per­for­mance as a doomed neo-noir pro­tag­o­nist. Time and again, how­ever, the eye drifts away from the cen­tral fig­ure to drink in the epic ex­te­ri­ors, which are sat­u­rated in glo­ri­ously som­bre shades that de­liver a depth of field that is vividly, al­most im­pos­si­bly, lush. The ef­fect is that of an hal­lu­ci­na­tory fever dream, a kind of vis­ual delir­ium in which the au­di­ence is never sure which of the story’s char­ac­ters – repli­cants, holo­grams and dou­ble­cross­ing hu­mans – are truly real, or only hy­per-real. The sen­sory over­load can be­come over­whelm­ing at times, and Hans Zim­mer’s vari­a­tion on Van­ge­lis’s clas­sic score is more ob­tru­sive than it needs to be, but for the most part Blade Run­ner 2049 is a gor­geous, stun­ning sci-fi epic that does full jus­tice to the orig­i­nal. Philip K. Dick would have ap­proved. Adapted from Jean­nette Walls’s ac­count of her un­ortho­dox up­bring­ing, The Glass

Castle (12A) opens in Man­hat­tan in 1989, with Jean­nette (Brie Lar­son) work­ing as a gos­sip colum­nist and en­gaged to fi­nancier David (Max Green­field). Her glam­orous life is sharply con­trasted with her child­hood, how­ever: as the story flashes back, we dis­cover that the Walls were a no­madic fam­ily, driv­ing the length and breadth of Amer­ica as Jean­nette’s fa­ther, Rex (Woody Har­rel­son), pro­pounds his the­o­ries on liv­ing free, which in prac­ti­cal terms in­volves Rex drink­ing his liver into a coma while his wife Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) and their chil­dren en­dure grind­ing poverty. Woody Har­rel­son puts in a strong per­for­mance as the corn­pone philoso­pher and al­ter­na­tive life­style ad­vo­cate, and Ella An­der­son is heart­break­ingly af­fect­ing as the young Jean­nette, as the story at­tempts to make sense of the com­plex re­la­tion­ship be­tween fa­ther and daugh­ter. Un­for­tu­nately, the ex­cel­lent Naomi Watts is given very lit­tle to do, with Rose Mary por­trayed as a naïve ex-hippy whose fail­ure as a mother is matched only by her lack of tal­ent with a paint­brush in her hand. Di­rec­tor Destin Daniel Cret­ton crafts his film in such a way as to sug­gest that the home-schooled Jean­nette and her sib­lings grad­u­ated with hon­ours from the uni­ver­sity of hard knocks, but it’s dif­fi­cult to view the film in any other way than as an ex­tended ac­count of hor­rific ne­glect and emo­tional abuse.

Writ­ten by Colm Tóibín and di­rected by Volker Sch­lön­dorff, Re­turn to Mon­tauk

(15A) cen­tres on aging au­thor Max Zorn (Stel­lan Skars­gård), who re­turns to New York af­ter a long ab­sence to pub­lish his new novel, and who craves a re­union with his old flame Re­becca (Nina Hoss), de­spite be­ing in a long-term re­la­tion­ship with Clara (Su­sanna Wolff). The tone is wryly wist­ful through­out but the film is ex­ces­sively stagey, with Max ap­par­ently trapped be­tween be­ing the au­thor of his new book and play­ing the part of the love-lorn au­thor within its pages. Un­der­stand­ably, given the set-up, much of the plot evolves by way of di­a­logue, but Max – de­spite the best ef­forts of the very fine Stel­lan Skars­gård – comes on like a par­ody of the neu­rotic, self-ob­sessed writer. The women are more nu­anced, and far more be­liev­able, with Nina Hoss and Su­sanna Wolff turn­ing in ex­cel­lent per­for­mances as world­weary women en­dur­ing Max’s delu­sions about him­self as a Man Who Un­der­stands Women.

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