Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours
When I first saw Blade Runner (1982) many years ago, I understood that it was the quintessential, if not the defining, cyberpunk film. Since I was used to the more modern cyberpunk at the time (a la The Matrix (1999)), I felt the slow unfolding of exposition wasn’t nearly as action-driven as I had hoped it would be. Of course, at the time, I might not have been watching the “Director’s Cut” version of Blade Runner, which was what I watched this time around. Needless to say, it’s a much better movie than I initially remembered.
I think part of my improved assessment of this film came from a realization that it wasn’t intrinsically a science fiction film. Sure, it is based on a story by Philip K. Dick, it is set in a fast-approaching and somewhat inaccurate representation of the future, and it has the trappings of a sci-fi film (i.e., androids, flying cars, technology, etc.), but at its heart, Blade Runner owes more to film noir than I realized. Take away the science fiction exterior, and you’re left with the stark shadows filtering through the mists of cigarette smoke and humid clouds of Los Angeles while a “detective” tracks down the antagonist(s) of a crime. Classic noir.
Probably because I hadn’t seen a lot of film noir before seeing Blade Runner the first time, I never could have made the connection that this film is not what it seems, almost becoming its own allusion to the “hidden android” motif. Sure, Blade Runner still stands as a founding film of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, but it only does so through the superb atmosphere and ambiance that is created via the noir style from classics like Chinatown (1974) and The Third Man (1949). Clearly, director Ridley Scott knows how to infuse science fiction into other genres, with Alien (1979) combining sci-fi with horror, and Blade Runner combining sci-fi with film noir.
A superb homage to film noir contained in the skin of a sci-fi movie, I give Blade Runner 5.0 stars out of 5.