Blade Runner (1982): The Final Cut (2007) – Directed by Ridley Scott – Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Joanna Cassidy, Edward James Olmos, Brion James, Joe Turkel, and M. Emmet Walsh.
I’d much rather write about a semi-forgotten movie like The Black Hole or a newer, “argument still in process” movie like Sucker Punch than an established classic like BLADE RUNNER, where it feels like everyone has already had the discussion, settled on their opinions, and left to talk about something else.
It’s not that I think I’m changing anyone’s mind with these reviews, but rather that I feel like there’s nothing much left to say about a movie that has been so widely seen and written about that this is just another log on the “BLADE RUNNER is awesome pile.”
BLADE RUNNER is Ridley Scott’s dystopian vision of 2019 Los Angeles. Based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, BLADE RUNNER is a rain-soaked, dark, noir thriller. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a worn down “Blade Runner,” a special cop who hunts down replicants and “retires” them, which is code for “blasts the sh*t out of them until they die.” Replicants are replicants that look like humans but are banned from use on Earth; they’re manufactured for off-world functions, such as menial labor and sex. If a replicant finds itself on Earth, a Blade Runner is sent after it, and when that happens, we have a movie.
BLADE RUNNER works on every level: story, direction, acting, tone, pace … I could have done without the Vangelis score but it’s not obtrusive. The first half of the film is successful primarily because of the tone and the latter half is successful because of story, as Deckard’s body count rises and his attitude towards replicants shifts.
I don’t like “last job” stories, but BLADE RUNNER succeeds in telling a last job story because Deckard has already checked out of this life, and when he’s then pulled back in by his boss (M. Emmet Walsh) his reluctance is reinforced by his experience with the replicants. This isn’t just one of those “I want to quit” stories but rather, “I need to quit,” and that need is soaked onto Ford’s face in every scene of the film. (And, let’s be honest, the dour Deckard seems much more like the Harrison Ford we see in interviews than Han or Indy ever did; Ford was born to play this part.) When he falls for Rachael (Sean Young), it’s not so much that his love for her changes him as much as his desire for her reveals his already changing attitude. While Deckard goes out and does his job, killing the escaped replicant Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), and then being saved by Rachael from being killed by Leon (Brion James), he’s already fallen for Rachael. His bedding of Rachael comes off as less about Deckard wanting Rachael as it does Deckard struggling with his attitude towards replicants.
Ridley Scott has deftly taken the detective noir and transposed it onto a sci-fi story. BLADE RUNNER uses the noir for its structure, and the sci-fi for its philosophy, with the two genres colliding in the impressive visual look. Deckard is very much the beaten down cop/private eye who lives alone, drinks too much, and falls for the wrong woman. He’s the only guy who can do this job and he does it without joy, any desire he once had to retire replicants long gone. It’s only natural he falls for Rachael, the most advanced replicant he’s met, after it takes him nearly three times as many questions to out her as a replicant using the Voight-Kampff Test as it does a normal replicant.
The big question with Deckard, of course, is whether he’s a replicant or not. According to the Never Wrong, Ford wanted Deckard to be human while Scott wanted Deckard to be a replicant. I think the film is ambiguous to support either position, which means it’s really ambiguous enough to not support either position. Personally, I think the story, as presented in the Final Cut, actually supports the human position better; the key to Deckard being a replicant centers on the unicorn dream sequence, which is then reinforced by Gaff (Edward James Olmos) leaving a unicorn origami figure near his door at the end of the film when Deckard and Rachael take off together. On the other side, however, that’s not exactly rock solid evidence. We also have Deckard’s eyes – throughout the film, replicant’s eyes are shown to “glow” as a result of the way light reflects off of them. This never happens with Deckard.
I think the film wants to leave it ambiguous; certainly if Scott really wanted to enforce Deckard-as-replicant, he could have made it more clear, but he doesn’t. The ambiguity angle works with how the film ends, as the final confrontation between Roy (Rutger Hauer) and Deckard shows both the physical brutality the replicants are capable of, as well as their humanity, as he spends a good amount of time beating the crap out of Deckard and then saves the cop from falling to his death in order for Deckard to watch Roy’s four-year lifespan come to its programmed ending.
From a viewer’s standpoint, I think Human Deckard works better for how this story is constructed than Replicant Deckard. If Deckard is human, then his relationship with Rachael signifies hope that humanity will eventually come to see their creations as more than simple slaves. If Deckard is a replicant then his falling for Rachael symbolizes his own awakening as a machine realizing it’s a machine, and that’s not nearly as strong an ending because we’ve already seen a whole movie full of machines that realize they’re machines. I think if you want Deckard to be a replicant then it needs to be revealed and dealt with in the film itself, and not left to the imagination.
One of the joys in watching BLADE RUNNER is how great the individual performances are beyond Ford’s rock solid center. Rutger Hauer is phenomenal as Roy Batty, calculating and cold one moment, emotional and hot the next. Sean Young reminds you she can do more than act crazy in real life. Brion James and M. Emmet Walsh are their usual dependable selves, and Daryl Hannah is alluring in her cat-like seduction and manipulation of William Sanderson, one of my personal favorite actors.
BLADE RUNNER’s place as a cinematic classic is well-earned. Personally, I don’t think it’s as good as Ridley Scott’s Alien, but it is a damn fine movie in its own right.