Los Angeles 2019
Police building
Tyrell building
Roy and the dove
Blade Runner

Review of Ridley Scott's film
   Los Angeles, 2019. In a world riddled by an excessive pollution which killed most animals and plunges it in constant cold, rain and darkness live the few remaining people who have not yet gone to seek a better life on other planets. Amongst them, Deckard, a member of the Blade Runner, a special force whose mission is to hunt down and kill Replicants. Replicants, commonly nicknamed "skin jobs", are genetically created superior beings made and sold by the Tyrell corporation. Used as slaves, their main purpose was to make dangerous planets liveable for humans until one day they rebelled and massacred the human crew of their ship. Since then, they are considered as illegal and are to be killed as soon as identified. As Deckard is enjoying an early retirement, he is contacted by the police. Replicants have come back to earth and Deckard is expected to find and destroy them.
   Dark is hardly enough to qualify this film. As far as depressing pessimistic cynical and tortured universe go, Blade Runner is the archetype. Deeply influenced by the Film Noir cinematic movement, it uses all its classic thematic and technical elements (cigarette-smoking female, femme fatales, alcoholic rough disillusioned detective, a corrupted money-obsessed society where human life is bought cheap, crude violence, heavily use of night shots, intricate play on lights etc). But these are transposed in a futuristic though very realistic city and serve a very existentialist story. What is it to be human and how do some people dare use others as slaves? Are we responsible of what we create? These are the main questions addressed in this film.
   The simplistic good versus evil tradition of fiction (and even of history according to some course books) is strongly rejected. For instance, Deckard's brutal cold-blooded shooting of a woman Replicant in her back whilst she is desesperately trying to run away is hard to accept. Roy tells him so directly "I thought you were supposed to be good! Aren't you the good man?". Created only to serve people, to die while colonising wild planets for humans, it is even said that some Replicants, like Pris, were "a basic pleasure model, a standard item for military clubs in the outer colonies", with all its implications of barbaric abuse and violence (betrayed in Deckard's cynical grin when learning this from the police). Hunted down, constantly living in the fear to be identified and killed while also knowing that they have little left to live, since they were not built to last, to outlive the purpose they were built for, the viewer feels a deep empathy for them, but their cold-blooded blind destructive anger, their murderous calculative ways are just as ignomous - though no more I think is the point of this film - as those of the ones who created them. Of the latest young woman engineered, Tyrell says she is "an experiment, nothing more". Considered as objects by humans (thus Deckard refers to the woman as 'she' until he suddenly switches to a reductive disgusted 'it' as soon as he is sure she was genetically engineered), Replicants sometimes prove to be more humane than the humans themselves, showing more emotions, care and decency.
   This film has raised to the status of cult-film despite a very negative reception from most people, who judged it too dark and difficult. Maybe they simply did not understand that this is not 'entertainment', meaning it is not intended to be watched while eating pop-corn for a nice pleasant viewing; it requires a mature attentive viewer. It is thought-provoking material, specifically designed to shock and force people to question important social issues and which betrays a deep fear and repulsion for the future, which is what science-fiction was originally all about: philosophical, political, moral questioning of contemporary societies by showing how they may develop in the future (see Orwell, Clifford D. Simak etc). So the violence is unsettling and the extremely tense mood culminates in the most nerve-wrecking final duel ever seen in a film.
   Some actors complained that the director spent hours "playing with the lightning" before finally filming. Well, if it's any comfort to them, it really shows he did as the photography is absolutely magnificent. The sceneries were - and still are actually - very impressive, though it is better appreciated at the cinema. The acting is impeccable, especially Sean Young's performance, which is quite moving, and Rutger Hauer's, who skilfully manages to make his character inspire both empathy and repulsion.
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