Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Cert 15 117mins Stars 5

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982, 2007) 

Ridley ScottBlade Runner: The Final Cut is the definitive version of director Ridley Scott‘s 1982’s sci-fi noir masterpiece.

Uniquely it stands on a pedestal with 1927’s Metropolis, and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in the sci-fi canon, and alongside 1944’s Double Indemnity as a doom laden noir.

AndroidsDreamBased on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner is a combination of extraordinary visuals, superlative sound, Blade Runner’s superb cast includes Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh and Daryl Hannah.

With various cuts of the film existing and offering very different endings, Scott trims The Final Cut to its noir roots and in doing so unequivocally resolves a long running debate concerning the nature of the central character, the ‘Blade Runner’, Rick Deckard.

Digitally remastered in 2007 for the 25th anniversary of the original 1982 release, Scott removed Deckard’s voice-over and a happy ending which the studio imposed on the original theatrical release, as well as reinserting a unicorn dream sequence.

Blade Runner scroll

The film takes place in Los Angeles of the year 2019. Six genetically engineered humans called replicants have escaped from an off-world colony and made their way to Earth, where their presence is outlawed.

BR fordIn Los Angeles two replicants are killed after trying to break into the headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation. This prompts M. Emmet Walsh‘s seedy police captain to strong-arm Harrison Ford‘s reluctant former detective, Rick Deckard, back into harness.

Though insisting he is twice as quit as when he walked in, Deckard accepts the order to find the remaining four replicants and destroy them, and an origami-modelling cop called Gaff is assigned to monitor Deckard’s progress.

While on the case Deckard first interviews then starts an affair with Sean Young‘s Rachael. She’s the glamorous niece of the head of the Tyrell Corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the chess-playing creator of the replicants.

DeckardThe euphemistic use of the word ‘retire’, reminds us Dick’s paranoid fear of the inevitable decay of our mortal bodies, reinforced by Scott scattering his sets with mannequin parts.

The screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples is a loose adaption of the source novel but is faithful to Dick’s obsessions of decay, transformation, paranoia and identity, and in The Final Cut at least, is respectful of noir’s hard-boiled cynicism.

It can also be read as a twisted riff on John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, with the replicants representing fallen angels rejecting their godlike creator.

Incorporating tolling bells, the magnificent score by Greek composer Vangelis, announces key themes as the film opens and veers between the apocalyptic and the heavenly.

The Tyrell Corporation’s HQ is a pyramidal mausoleum, a suitable resting place for a god before an ascension to a higher level of existence. The replicants can be interpreted as angels or demons who have descended to Earth from the chaotic off-world to challenge the Earth’s divine order, and possibly raise humanity to a higher plane of existence.

Br sebastian

The subjugated and animal nature of Earthbound humanity is explored through the use of rats, those harbingers of disease, decay and death. Tyrell talks of deserting rats when discussing the altering of the replicant’s DNA. There are pet rats among J.F. Sebastian’s engineered toys. Deckard is herded like a lab rat through the decaying prison of a mansion block.

Filmed in the ironwork interior of LA’s Bradbury building, the dreamlike apartment of genetic engineer J.F. Sebastian is a repository of childhood toys which Deckard must escape before he can be enlightened as to his real identity.

Br BattyThe relationship between the replicants provides the emotional core of the film. Daryl Hannah wraps herself affectionately around Rutger Hauer, who plays her partner and the replicant’s leader, Roy Batty.

And though the a homicidal Batty is set up as the villain, Hauer’s poetic and physical performance aches with life, love and loss. His powerful closing monologue which always bring s me to tears is all the more astonishing for being self-penned.

BRrachaelFor those who think Scott is a stylist indifferent to his actors labours, they should consider the performance he elicits from Sean Young, who is perfectly in tune with the demands of the role.

In a brilliantly tense conclusion we see Rachael asleep in her apartment and Deckard approaching her, gun in hand. We don’t know whether he will kill her or kiss her.

There’s a declaration of love and a big sigh of relief from the audience. But as Deckard and Rachael leave his apartment, they find an origami unicorn left by Gaff. This changes the entire thrust of the story and our understanding of it.

UnicornGaff’s origami is evidence he knows Deckard’s dreams are memory implants, causing Deckard and the audience to belatedly realise he is also a replicant. His entire life is a lie and he has unwittingly killed his own replicant family members at the behest of the police, his enemies, who he realises he now has to escape from.

This bleak revelation is perfect film noir.

But the power of Blade Runner has been diluted by the studio edit prompting a discussion over Deckard’s replicant status. This drags our focus from a brilliant noir ending to a non-debate over the nature of Deckard’s humanity.

Instead of the audience being overwhelmed by the force of this drama, for nearly forty years everyone has chuntered over the ‘is he a replicant’ debate, a controversy this definitive version retires.

Harrison Ford was strategically picked to play Deckard in a casting masterstroke of cinematic deception. The audience is fooled by their own presumption the star is playing a hero.

A huge star from his swashbuckling roles in 1977’s Star Wars, and 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, as Han Solo, and Indiana Jones, the audience expected more of the same. Ford’s status as heroic Hollywood leading man leads us to believe Deckard is the hero until we and Deckard realise he isn’t. We don’t expect a character played by Ford to be the fall guy.

The Big SleepAs a hard drinking detective with a laconic delivery and ready attitude in the face of authority, Ford is presented as a futuristic Humphrey Bogart, rebooted, updated and teleported in from Hollywood’s Golden Age of noir.

Ford is happy to riff on Bogart’s goofy undercover book lover in  1946’s The Big Sleep to emphasise the connection. There’s even a reference to Sydney Greenstreet in Bogart’s classic wartime melodrama, Casablanca as Deckard interrogates a fez-wearing gangster, The Egyptian.

Plus the story is told through Deckard’s eyes. So Deckard’s the hero, right? He’s an updated and rebooted sci-fi Philip Marlowe, right? Wrong.

To watch The Final Cut is to realise, and this is despite what Bryant tells him, Deckard is not especially good at his job.

He’s beaten up in turn by each of the four replicants. While failing to dispatch either of the males, he shoots the unarmed females, and he only manages to kill one of them by shooting her in the back as she’s running away. And as Batty mockingly points out, Deckard is not very sporting. Ordered to retire Rachael, Deckard has sex with her instead.

indemnityFar from being Bogart 2.0, Deckard is far more of an upgrade of Fred MacMurray’s hapless insurance salesman Walter Neff from 1944 noir masterpiece. Double Indemnity. In classic noir fashion, Deckard is too dim to realise he’s always behind the game. it’s not until the end he understands how little he knows. He’s a prize chump.

Blade Runner is rightly celebrated for its superlative sci-fi styling, but I love The Final Cut for revelling in the noir at the heart of this rain-soaked LA story.

@ChrisHunneysett

DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD

Cert PG 102mins Stars 4

Isabela Moner makes for an agreeably cheerful heroine in this breezy live action adaptation of long running animated kids TV series Dora the Explorer, a smart, brave, and relentlessly optimistic soul, who finds herself in the South American jungle looking for her missing parents.

She’s accompanied by an inclusive trio of squabbling students who she meets while dog eat dog world of US high school, and is chased by bad guys looking for a fabled city of gold.

A cute and mischievous monkey called Boots is rendered in not great CGI, while much better are the hallucinogenic plant spores which allow for a trippy old school cartoon throwback to Dora’s animated roots.

All the more fun for feeling like a kid friendly caper version of classic action adventure, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stuff about teamwork, eco-awareness and education is hidden among the tunnels, traps, and poisonous frogs, but it doesn’t slow down the often rollicking fun.

GOOD BOYS

Cert 15 90mins Stars 3

This hectic tween comedy is a shameless riff on 1986 classic caper Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but without the invention, charm or musical numbers.

Armed with a suitably juvenile sense of humour, Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams play the 12 year old boys who bunk off school to shout and swear their way across town in order to replace a damaged drone, while chased by a pair of older teen girls whose drugs they’ve inadvertently stolen.

Plus they have to get back in time for a party at the cool kids house, where they anticipate the momentous life events of trying a sip of booze,and having their first kiss. With an actual girl.

With the majority of the jokes involve the boys being exposed to sex toys and misunderstanding their purpose, this will undoubtedly appeal to teenagers, but you’d best drop them off rather than watch it with them to spare anyone a dose of cross-generational embarrassment.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Cert 18 161mins Stars 5

No modern director can excite and confound an audience the way Quentin Tarantino does, and he returns to cinema in a playful mood with this outrageously confident, tartly funny, and occasionally graphically violent comedy-drama.

As the title of his bold and ambitious self-penned script suggests, this is a fable set in Los Angeles of 1969’s turbulent summer.

It’s an intoxicating mix of history and hearsay along the lines of Tarantino’s 2009 fictitious war drama, Inglourious Basterds, a world where fictitious characters rub shoulders with portrayals of real people.

A typically excellent soundtrack has a cast to match with the ‘A ‘ list double act of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt offering a finely judged chemistry.

The former offers a compellingly sympathetic performance as he sets himself up for another Oscar nomination in his first film in four years, while the latter is equally great in a more relaxed comic role.

DiCaprio stars as a washed-up TV cowboy with Pitt as his longstanding stuntman and gopher, while living next door is real life actress Sharon Tate, murdered that year by followers of cult leader, Charles Manson.

Despite little dialogue, Margot Robbie is electric as Tate, who’s dressed in a costume obsessively reminiscent of Tarantino’s former muse Uma Thurman, in his Kill Bill films.

Tarantino suggests Tate’s murder is symbolic of the point ‘old Hollywood’ died and was replaced by the violent drug-drenched New Wave films such as Easy Rider, as well as actors such as Al Pacino, who is entertaining here in a small role.

But this glorious combination of horror, dance, and kung fu film claims evolution not revolution, should have been the way forward.

Most welcome is Tarantino’s new found humility in recognising cinema can be dangerous and exploitative for all involved, on either side of the screen.

And I loved every richly evocative, shamelessly entertaining and nostalgia-riven minute of it.

OPUS ZERO

Cert 15 84mins Stars 3

Hollywood veteran Willem Dafoe brings a thoughtful weariness to this opaque, odd, melancholy and contemplative drama of self-discovery set in Mexico.

He plays an American composer called Paul who’s struggling in the aftermath of his estranged father’s death and in a remote village and while searching for a missing local woman he encounters a documentary film crew.

Dafoe received his fourth Oscar nomination last year for playing artist Vincent Van Gogh, in At Eternity’s Gate, and here there’s an impressive painters eye in the composition of scenes, the evocation of the rhythms of rural life, the framing of dark dry interiors and the capture of magnificent landscapes.

By choosing to substitute plot in favour of a discourse on the relationship between reality, filmmaking and memory, this may test the patience of the casual viewer.

However this is a far more sensitive and spiritual portrait of Mexico than usually offered by Hollywood, without a drug dealing cartel gangster in sight.

HORRIBLE HISTORIES: THE MOVIE – THE ROTTEN ROMANS

Cert PG 92mins Stars 3

After ruling the children’s book charts for over twenty years and dominated the TV schedules for a decade, the Horrible Histories team have set their sights on conquering the big screen with this amiable lightweight romp around Roman Britain.

It’s enjoyable enough and sticks closely to a strategy which has served so well in a lengthy campaign to subjugate the nation’s schoolchildren to the Horrible Histories super successful brand of historical facts, bodily fluid jokes and knockabout songs.

Sebastian Croft and Emilia Jones are the pleasant and fresh-faced leads, with he as a Roman teen sent to Britain as punishment where he’s captured by her feisty Celtic wannabe warrior.

Well known faces such as Nick Frost and Lee Mack pop up, though notably the bigger names such as Warwick Davis and Derek Jacobi are only cameo appearances.

Liverpool born actress Kim Cattrall adds a touch of class as Emperor Nero’s mother, and is game for a laugh. And while her absence from the big screen has been a loss for us all, at least this is closer to reality and a lot more fun than 2010’s Sex and the City 2.

Considering the long-lasting impact the gadabout and blood-thirsty Romans had on Britain, and for which we have exhaustive knowledge, this is never horrible or historical enough.

And it feels as if a TV episodes worth of material has been stretched to fill the movie’s length, with the script failing to up its game to compensate for the lack of a Hollywood budget.

With crushing inevitability the best gag is a riff on Kirk Douglas’ Roman gladiator classic, Spartacus, and with the rest of the gags relying heavily on a mix of music and teenage hormones, joke quality-wise this is feels more like kid-friendly Carry On Cleo, or could possibly be retitled, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sixth Forum.

MARIANNE & LEONARD: WORDS OF LOVE

Cert 12A 101mins stars 3

By framing the relationship between musician Leonard Cohen and his ‘muse’ Marianne Ihlen, as an enduring love story, this uninspired documentary puts the most positive possible gloss on 1960’s rock star behaviour.

If like me you know little about the Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist, Cohen, you’ve certainly heard his 1984 song, Hallelujah which Alexandra Burke bellowed to chart topping X Factor success in 2008, and this is an easy to follow introduction to his life and work.

In 1960, Cohen lived in an idyllic Greek island, Hydra, with the beautiful Norwegian divorcee, Marianne Ihlen, in a relationship which lasted for most of the decade.

She inspired his songwriting, appeared on his album covers, and supported and mothered him while he mined their relationship for commercial success.

Cohen comes across as a selfish and indulgent character who treated her as little more than a long-term groupie, and she was foolish enough to judge him not by his actions, but by his words of love.

THE CURRENT WAR

Cert 12A 108mins Stars 2

The star wattage of Benedict Cumberbatch is insufficient to transform this shockingly static historical drama into electrifying entertainment.

As work-obsessed inventor Thomas Edison he’s in conflict with Michael Shannon as arch-rival George Westinghouse to supply electricity to the homes and businesses of the US in late nineteenth century. Nicholas Hoult and Tom ‘Spider-man’ Holland also appear.

There are deaths as in any war, with the most notable here being William Kemmler, the first victim of the electrical chair, collateral damage from whom both innovators are keen to distance themselves from.

But the only really moving fatality is a horse who is sacrificed in pursuit of a tactical advantage.

Despite being stitched together with handsomely designed CGI cityscapes and stuffed full of corporate espionage, ambition, tragedy and world changing inventions such as the electric light bulb and cinema, the drama lies as inert as Frankenstein’s monster on the slab, waiting in vain for an electricity to jolt it to life.