For a re­view of “Blade Run­ner 2049,”

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Film­maker De­nis Vil­leneuve has taken on the her­culean task of di­rect­ing the se­quel to Ri­d­ley Scott’s 1982 sci- fi clas­sic “Blade Run­ner,” a feat that seems nearly im­pos­si­ble to pull off, con­sid­er­ing the rev­er­ence with which fans hold the orig­i­nal, one of the most unique and in­flu­en­tial pieces of sci- fi cinema. Vil­leneuve’s film, “Blade Run­ner 2049,” is a re­mark­able achieve­ment, a film that feels dis­tinctly au­teurist, yet also cut from the very same cloth as Scott’s film.

This epic riff on the styles, themes and char­ac­ters of “Blade Run­ner” ex­pand the scope and story of this world. Writ­ten by orig­i­nal screen­writer Hamp­ton Fancher and Michael Green, “2049” is a med­i­ta­tive and mov­ing film, sump­tu­ously pho­tographed by leg­endary cin­e­matog­ra­pher Roger Deakins in the finest and most as­ton­ish­ing work of his ca­reer. He paints with light and shadow, cre­at­ing a won­der­fully tac­tile sense of space and tex­ture, us­ing a palette of slate, cerulean and marigold. The aes­thetic is sub­dued, yet thrilling. The score by Ben­jamin Wall­fisch and Hans Zim­mer, sound­ing like rum­bling en­gines and blar­ing sirens, si­mul­ta­ne­ously lulls and ag­i­tates.

To be­la­bor story de­tails is to miss the big­ger pic­ture of “Blade Run­ner 2049.” The style is rich, the themes are com­plex, but the story is a sim­ple, clas­si­cally cin­e­matic tale. A man is faced with an ex­is­ten­tial quandary through which he reck­ons with his own soul and iden­tity in the face of in­cred­i­ble de­hu­man­iza­tion.

As LAPD of­fi­cer K, search­ing out il­le­gal repli­cants, Ryan Gosling is per­fectly cast as a suc­ces­sor to Deckard ( Har­ri­son Ford). His non­cha­lance re­flects the emotionally re­mote en­vi­ron­ment, the un­easy, dis­trust­ful daily ex­is­tence in this dystopian, iso­lated fu­ture. He is riv­et­ing when K’s spirit tries to break through the stu­diously placid sur­face. Sylvia Hoeks stuns as Luv, a char­ac­ter who seems to be a ref­er­ence to Sean Young’s Rachael, just a whole lot tougher.

This is a dark fu­ture that feels all too plau­si­ble. Noth­ing is sleek and shiny, but worn and faded. K wears com­fort­able knits un­der his avant- garde top coat. He con­ducts his de­tec­tive work the old- fash­ioned way, through card cat­a­logs and mi­cro- film — a black­out wiped out dig­i­tal records, so this mod­ernist world has be­come ana­log again. It’s just dif­fer­ent enough, but the drone war­fare, dump­ster ban­dits, child la­bor, and sex ro­bots are all sim­ply ex­ten­sions of things that al­ready ex­ist.

“2049” is a won­drous spec­ta­cle, im­bued with haunt­ing ques­tions about hu­man­ity. But it is flawed, as epics tend to be. At a beefy 2- hour, 43- minute run time, the film loses grip on its tight con­trol of the sto­ry­telling in the third hour, and flails be­fore find­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate end­ing. And while K’s in­ti­mate con­nec­tions with oth­ers re­flect the ex­is­tence of his soul, one can’t help but feel that the per­spec­tive on sex in the film is deeply rooted in un­in­ter­ro­gated male fan­tasy, de­spite the pres­ence of fas­ci­nat­ing fe­male char­ac­ters.

The con­ceit of both films is the Tur­ing Test— hu­man or ma­chine? The con­ceal and re­veal ex­poses both the soul of ma­chines and the cold­ness of a hu­man­ity that forces sub­or­di­nate be­ings into slav­ery in the ser­vice of cap­i­tal­ism. But is a ma­chine sen­tient? What de­notes per­sonal bod­ily au­ton­omy? What value can be found in the lim­i­nal space be­tween hu­man and ma­chine? “Blade Run­ner 2049” poses those ques­tions, raised 35 years ago, with a pierc­ing, ur­gent sense of in­tel­li­gence and in­ti­macy.

“Blade Run­ner 2049,” a Warner Bros. Pic­tures re­lease, is rated R for vi­o­lence, some sex­u­al­ity, nu­dity and lan­guage. Run­ning time: 163 min­utes. ½

“The Moun­tain Be­tween Us”

Sur­vival ro­mance “The Moun­tain Be­tween Us” seems straight­for­ward enough— a cou­ple of strangers are bonded for­ever when they en­dure a harrowing or­deal af­ter their char­ter plane crashes on a moun­tain in Utah. It’s “Alive,” with­out the can­ni­bal­ism, and a lot more ro­mance. But as the film pro­gresses, it be­comes clear that the ro­man­tic fan­tasy ten­den­cies hi­jack this oth­er­wise in­ter­est­ing un­con­ven­tional love story in or­der to be­come a sort of bizarre Idris Elba fan fic­tion. This theme has been com­pletely un­der­scored by the mar­ket­ing of the film aswell.

Cer­ti­fied hunk Elba plays a char­ac­ter who’s just too good to be true. He’s a doc­tor, he wears fine, ex­pen­sive out­er­wear, and he lis­tens to clas­si­cal mu­sic on his head­phones.

Why does he need to rush back to New York? Be­cause he has to do emer­gency brain surgery on a child, of course. One would imag­ine that the source ma­te­rial for the screen­play was a pulpy ro­mance novel. It is, in fact, adapted from a novel, by Charles Martin ( though the cover doesn’t ap­pear to fea­ture any shirt­less doc­tors), adapted for the screen by Chris Weitz and J. Miles Good­loe. The film is di­rected by Dutch- Pales­tinian film­maker Hany Abu- As­sad.

Elba’s char­ac­ter Ben, en­coun­ters an­other trav­eler, Alex ( Kate Winslet), while they’re stranded in an air­port, a chance meet­ing that changes their lives for­ever. She’s a pho­to­jour­nal­ist rush­ing to get home to New York for her wed­ding, and sug­gests a pri­vate char­ter plane to this stranger she re­al­izes is in the same predica­ment.

All too soon they’re fight­ing for their lives on a snow­capped moun­tain­top in De­cem­ber, af­ter their pi­lot ( Beau Bridges) suf­fers a stroke while fly­ing. Dur­ing this or­deal, they be­come in­ex­tri­ca­bly bonded, learn­ing a great deal about each other, and them­selves. If Ben is the brains of the op­er­a­tion, Alex is the heart— he’s sys­temic and risk- averse, she’s emo­tional and reck­less. Sounds about right for their gen­ders and pro­fes­sions.

What saves “The Moun­tain Be­tween Us” from pulp are the per­for­mances of Winslet and Elba. Winslet has al­ways been a won­der­fully grounded ac­tor, and she’s at ease here, de­spite the ex­treme cir­cum­stances. Elba gets to flex a dif­fer­ent mus­cle as the ro­man­tic lead­ing man. His cast­ing is a spot- on choice, and the two share a heart­felt chem­istry as two peo­ple who gen­uinely learn to like each other, as much as they might love or hate each other at times.

So why does this hor­rific sit­u­a­tion feel so much like fan­tasy? Be­cause al­most ev­ery step along the way is an­other chance for Ben to hero­ically care for and nur­ture Alex, to al­ways run back for her, to pull her out of frozen lakes and spoon soup into her mouth. Ham­pered with a leg in­jury, the plucky Alex gets to be the damsel in dis­tress, al­ways saved from cer­tain death by her trav­el­ing com­pan­ion. De­spite some of their in­juries, this or­deal is made to seem down­right glam­orous and sexy.

While Abu- As­sad cap­tures the moun­tain land­scape beau­ti­fully, it’s all pre­sented through rose- col­ored glasses that make it some­how hard to take se­ri­ously. The film shies away from many of the harsh re­al­i­ties to fo­cus on their in­ter­per­sonal con­nec­tion, and per­haps that’s what makes the stakes fade away and the au­then­tic­ity seem an af­ter­thought. “The Moun­tain Be­tween Us” falls flat, strug­gling to truly en­thral be­yond a ba­sic love story.

“The Moun­tain Be­tween Us,” a Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox re­lease is rated PG- 13 for a scene of sex­u­al­ity, peril, in­jury im­ages and brief strong lan­guage. Run­ning time: 110 min­utes.


Kate Winslet, left, and Idris Elba star in “The Moun­tain Be­tween Us.”

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