Blade Runner (1982) – Ridley Scott

brBetween Alien and Blade Runner, Ridley Scott has created to genre defining classics, both of which close in on the holy grail of cinematic perfection for me.

The 101 Sci-Fi Movies brings me a chance to revisit this wonderfully dark sci-fi thriller.

I read the book by Philip K. Dick, I bought the Marvel comics paperback edition, but I didn’t get to see Blade Runner until 1984, when my family got its first VCR. Then, as I sat there watching the movie in the dark of my living room I was given my first introduction to the concept of noir cinema, or future noir as its referred to in describing this movie.

Ethics, motives, even the line between good guy and bad guy was all gray. I was intrigued.

Then there is the sheer beauty of the film. This was a long time before computer generated images so special effects were created by model work and matte paintings. Everything has a reality to it that today’s films no longer seem interested in replicating.

deckardRick Deckard (Harrison Ford swathed in a wicked trench coat) is a Blade Runner, a special breed of cop that is assigned to hunt down and retire replicants who return to Earth. They’ve been outlawed since a group of them went rogue and killed people. But that doesn’t stop them from coming back, seeking answers about their lives and longevity from their creators, the folks at the Tyrell corporation. Deckard tracks them down with the aid of a stalk-eyed, breathing machine known as a Voight-Kampff machine, which reads empathetic reactions to questions used to generate an emotional response, something replicants are incapable of.

Led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) a group of Nexus-6, virtually indistinguishable from humans, have returned seeking these answers. At Roy’s side is Leon (Brion James), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and Pris (Daryl Hannah), and it is up to Deckard to hunt them down.

Along the way, questions about Deckard’s own humanity arise (could he be a replicant?), he falls for Tyrell’s niece Rachel (Sean Young), and the hunter becomes the hunted in as Roy and Deckard battle through a deserted building and across rooftops.

royEdward James Olmos plays Deckard’s partner (minder?) Gaff, who seems to know more about what’s going on in Deckard’s mind than he does.

The 1982 Domestic version had a voice-over narration by Ford as the distributors thought that the viewing audience would be confused by the storyline. I, of course, grew up with that version, and knew the narration backwards and forwards. It wasn’t until the Director’s Cut (followed in 2007 by the preferred Final Cut), that I was able to see the film without the narration, and it was like a whole new film, an incredible experience, that only served to heighten the noir aspects of the film, now instead of being told what to think by the narration, the viewer could draw their own conclusions about everything that was going on, what things meant. A much more enjoyable experience.

bladeWith a score by Vangelis, the film draws you into a world where it seems to be constantly dark, and constantly rains, with the giant pyramid shape of the Tyrell building dominating the industrialized skyline of Los Angeles. I love this score, in fact, when it rains here in Toronto, I love to have the 3 CD edition playing on my ipod, as I wander the wet streets, the neon reflecting in the puddles, and I can imagine myself in my own little future noir adventure.

Now, some 30-odd years later, and the film’s 2019 setting draws closer, the film still looks fantastic, as I said it generates more of a reality than most of the cg-created worlds we’ve seen on the screen of late.

Scott has always been a perfectionist when it comes to the technical side of directing, and this is one of the finest examples of a filmmaker at the top of his game.

I love this movie.

What are your thoughts on it?

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Ridley Scott – My Top 10

I am so pumped for Prometheus, but we know that. So, while I wait very impatiently for June 8 to return to The Company, Lv-426 and learn the secrets of The Engineers I thought it would be very interesting to run down my list of favorite films by Sir Ridley.

While some people may not necessarily agree with all my selections I stand by them, and I honestly believe he is one of the best technical directors working today.

So without further ado… My list…

10) Thelma & Louise (1991) – An awesome road movie, with two very strong female leads. Leaving their less than stellar lives behind they take to the road in search of more.

It all seems to go well enough until Louise kills a man who attempts to rape Thelma.

From that moment on, they are on the run, racing towards the inescapable ending of the film.

And what a ride!

9) Robin Hood (2010) – This one may raise a few eyebrows, especially coming in higher than Thelma & Louise, but that;s because everyone, I believe, went into the film thinking it would simply be a retelling of all the stories that had gone before, robbing from the rich giving to the poor and the like. This time around it’s a completely different tale, while still incorporating a lot of the familiar trademarks of the legend. Ridley knows how to get what he wants, and each shot is masterful, no matter what people thought of the subject matter. I also have to say, as is apparent from how many times he shows up on the list, I do like when Russell Crowe and Scott work together.

8) Body of Lies (2008) – Ridely show’s his technical proficiency to the extreme with this political techno-thriller featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as CIA operative Roger Ferris who is working on tracking down a terrorist leader working out of Jordan. But in this game, intelligence is the top card and his double-dealing boss, played by Crowe, who put on some weight for the role, proves that he cannot be trusted, twisting and controlling the information, and pulling the strings, screwing Ferris time and again, though they’re supposed to be on the same side of the conflict. This is a movie that you can’t walk in and out of, you have to pay attention to everything, you see, Scott never underestimates the smarts of his audience, and refuses to talk down to them.

7) Matchstick Men (2003) – Ridley doesn’t often delve into comedy/drama but this con-man film is a lot of fun, and it’s neat to see Ridley step away from the action-dramas he usually helms.

Nicolas Cage plays Roy Waller, a con man, who is suffering from a staggering amount of phobias. He works with Frank Mercer (the always awesome Sam Rockwell) on a ‘water-filtration’ scam until his teenage daughter, played by Alison Lohman, shows up and puts a kink in things, by telling her father she wants to learn the business. Like all con films, there are twists, turns, betrayals and surprises, and this one works just fine.

6) Legend (1985) – A straight out fantasy film, Legend stands out for a couple of reasons, the swapping of music scores at the last second, and the fantastic performance by Tim Curry, as the satan-like Darkness. The film was trimmed and re-scored initially, removing a sweeping score by Jerry Goldsmith to replace it with a more synthetic soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. This was before Tom Cruise was a huge name, and the film doesn’t get lost under his ego, instead, the fairy tale nature of the film is front and center, and is lovely to look at, not to mention Mia Sara (sigh). If you seek this one out, make sure you track down the Director’s Cut, as opposed to the original theatrical cut, which lost almost 30 minutes of footage.

5) Black Rain (1989) – American cops out of their element in Japan, lost in a world that deals with things completely differently than the way they are used to on the streets of New York. Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia are the cops, sent to escort a criminal back to Japan, where they promptly lose him through deception, and a complete lack of language and protocol.

When things go really badly, Douglas’ Conklin goes head to head with the Yakuza with the help of a Japanese partner (Ken Takakura) and a ex-pat played by Kate Capshaw. An awesome flick.

4) Gladiator (2000) – Scott’s first effort with Crowe, and I’m sure some of you are wondering why it’s not my number one choice. Now, I do believe it’s a great film, even if Maximus speaks with a mostly Australian accent, but for me it doesn’t have as much repeat watch value as the remaining three on the list. In fact Black Rain almost beat it out for this position. Still it’s gorgeous, the action sequences are fantastic, and as always technically incredible.

Ridley brings ancient Rome to life in a way most viewers hadn’t seen since Ben-Hur, and it’s a bloody good ride. It also features, I feel, one of Hans Zimmer’s best scores.

3) Black Hawk Down (2001) – Based on an actual incident, that ends up being epic in size, this film shows that not only can Scott handle action, create intense war scenes, it also shows he can work with and balance an incredibly large cast including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Jason Isaacs, William Fichtner, Jeremy Piven, Tom Hardy, and Ron Eldard. Wonderfully intense, Black Hawk Down is the epitome of wars depicting modern warfare in my mind.

And it’s impact does not lessen with repeated viewing. If you’re able, get your hands on the 3 disc special edition DVD set (this version is yet to be released on blu-ray) there are some fantastic behind-the-scenes and historical documentaries.

2) Alien (1979) – A haunted house story set in space. That’s how its been to described, and at its core, that is what it is. Much like Star Wars, which came two years before, there is a level of detail, and use to the universe that Scott created with this film. It’s not clean or pristine, it’s been lived in, and as we learn, it’s not safe.

I love the fact that the first hour of this film is all set-up. You get to know the characters, you see the Nostromo, then you have the landing, the derelict ship, and of course things go sideways as we see, almost simultaneously that the message they received was not an SOS, but possibly a warning, and Kane encounters the eggs, and the facehugger within.

There’s not an imperfect moment in this film as far as I’m concerned, the model and creature work, the design, the cinematography, the costumes, it all combines to create a completely believable world…

1) Blade Runner (1982) – Alongside Metropolis, Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner will go down in history as one of the most influential science fiction films ever made. The Final Cut is the version I stand by, more ambiguous and thought-provoking than the original version with voice-over. Scott once again created a lived-in world, that while set in a 2019 that probably won’t come to fruition by the time we reach that year (though it may very well happen in the decades that follow it – I’m not sure about the replicants, but the spinners, and the buildings, and the pollution, and the implied political state).

This is my favorite film by Ridley Scott, though differing from the source material, it created a whole new film genre the future noir.

With these amazing films, is it any wonder I can’t wait for Prometheus? And I if it will find a place in my top 10 Ridley Scott films…

What are yours?

And will you be there June 8th?