Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blade Runner (1999) (Movie Review)

     Blade Runner (1999) [D: Ridley Scott. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young. Based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?] This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen this movie. The first one was the original release, and I remember very little of it. Even this time I was surprised by a few details, and was once again impressed by the thorough design of the movie. Lighting, settings, artefacts, pacing of the scenes, repeated motifs, soundscape, characterisation: this is one of the best movies I’ve seen. Just whose is the single vision that informs and guides every aspect of this movie, I don’t know, It’s customary to credit the director, but this movies feels like an ensemble production. Everyone, from the actors to the most humble technician, subscribed to the same dystopic vision and elegiac ironies of the story.
     That story is well known. Deckard (Ford) must track down and kill four replicants that have illegally come to Earth in order to find some way to extend their built in self-destruct date. That’s enough to guarantee action, and the trick is to make this more than an action movie. Scott and his script writers managed that trick. The story raises serious questions about human rights. The replicants may be manufactured to specifications that natural humans can’t meet, but they are human in every other way.  Even Leon, a labourer type with limited insight, shows a completely human grief for his dead comrade, a grief that drives him to attack Deckard.
     Deckard does what he’s ordered to do, but he doesn’t like it. Maybe he suspects he’s a replicant himself (I think he is). Certainly Rachael (Young) is one. Maybe Deckard just doesn’t like killing people whose only crime is that they were made not born. They are tools, instruments specially made for specialised jobs in environments where ordinary humans would be ineffective or even likely to be killed. They are the property of the Tyrell Corporation, the company that made them.
     Philip K. Dick’s story then is about the ethics of making artificial humans; or more generally, about demanding that humans shape themselves to suit a particular role in a project. What’s the difference between a biologically engineered worker and an educationally engineered one? Either way, the worker’s value consists in what he can perform as a tool or instrument. He has no inherent value as a human being. If some object such as a robot can perform better or cheaper, the worker’s value is zero.
     A great movie, and a great story of ideas. It’s to Scott’s credit, and his team’s, that abstract ideas have been transformed into a story of individual experience and actions that embody those ideas. ****

No comments: