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Blade Runner was one of those movies that, for me, existed on my periphery for as long as I can remember but for one reason or another never actually got round to watching. Whenever the film was mentioned by someone else, they would always talk about how great it was, but from the small clips I had seen, I just wasn't massively drawn to it as I probably should have been. That is, until the other night.
Set in the year 2019, bio-engineered beings known as Replicants are being hunted down to be 'retired' by the Police. Former LAPD Officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is brought back into the fold to help hunt down 4 stray Replicants who are on Earth illegally. These hunters of Replicants are known as Blade Runners, and Deckard is known as being one of the best at identifying a Replicant, and 'retiring' them. In identifying a Replicant, Deckard must administer the Voigt-Kampff test, which is a means by which a Replicant may be identified. Sent to test this on a Nexus 6 model Replicant at Tyrell Corporation's headquarters, Deckard is set upon a dangerous and mysterious journey to hunt down the illegal Replicants.
One of my first impressions in watching this movie was that, holy shit! This film looks so good considering it was made in 1982. Now, I'm not talking about CGI up to the eyeballs type stuff, but, I mean, just special effects that work perfectly and help sell the world and environment in which the story is set. The world is drab and depressing, but elements of it are futuristic, and the balance is just perfectly displayed on an aesthetic level. When talking about aesthetics, one thing the movie gets absolutely right is atmosphere. From the beginning, when we meet our first Replicant, you instantly understand that this isn't just going to be a straightforward man-hunting-cyborgs kind of movie. This is a film that, from the beginning, aims to question the very notion of what it means to be human.
This isn't a future anyone really wants to experience, and it's that which I find to be a truly compelling narrative. This appears to be a land without hope or possibility. It's a future of mere drudgery, and suspicion where the only thing that really keeps us going is our own inherent understanding of our humanity, and yet even that is taken away from the humans within this world. Visually, it's perfect. The film-noir appearance of the characters and surroundings make the world seem still believable yet fundamentally futuristic. The soundtrack is occasionally haunting, yet always captivating.
The idea behind the 'retiring' of Replicants is simple. These artificial beings must not be allowed to live longer than four years because then, quite simply, they begin to develop raw emotions, therefore potentially becoming more human. This, then, leads them to question their status as 'slaves' in this world and revolt against their masters, which they inevitably did at one point in Blade Runner's history. The question of humanity emanates throughout the film, and the viewer is even led to question Deckard's own humanity. It's a suspicion drummed up by our constant reality-shattering moments in which these seeming androids display more human traits than even some of our confirmed human characters.
It's eery, it's dark, it's gloomy, and it makes you question your own reality. It's not an action movie, it's not a romance, it's a sci-fi/noir detective drama in its purest form. There's a reason people love this film so much, and I have to say that I join their ranks as a massive admirer of the film.