Blade Runner: The Final Cut

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It took 25 years for Ridley Scott to arrive with the definitive version of his sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner. Yet there is still no definitive answer to the question: Does Rick Deckard dream of electric sheep?

Poster art for Final Cut version of Blade RunnerThe glum supercop with an uncanny talent for hunting down rogue replicants – crazed androids to you and me – gives even less of himself away in The Final Cut than he did in the 1982 original.

There is no voiceover by Harrison Ford, which Warner Brothers originally insisted on for the hard-of-thinking. Here, he keeps his thoughts to himself and is infinitely more interesting for it.

Scott’s vision of Los Angeles in 2019 is the ultimate movie dystopia: a fabulous hell of skyscrapers and monolithic Fritz Lang factories. The sky is cluttered with fuming aircraft and floating neon adverts, and it never stops raining on the cramped and seedy streets.

What does it mean to be human in such a diseased world? This is the thrust of Scott’s film noir, which has aged quite brilliantly.

If anything, this remastered version is a far more bitter watch. The differences between Rick Deckard and the six genetically engineered fugitives that he is hired to terminate are less easy to define. The brutal quest by the replicants to inflict revenge on the humans who invented them has been tightened. New links make better sense of Deckard’s bruising encounters, notably with Joanna Cassidy’s pneumatic snake charmer and Rutger Hauer’s majestic and psychotic Aryan leader.

But the true value of this version is to sharpen our doubts about the flawed hero. The young Ford is magnetic as the cruel lead, and Scott supplies fresh and sensational evidence that he may not be all he seems. 

The poisonous suspicion adds a terrific edge to the relationship between Ford’s haunted cop and Sean Young’s melancholic replicant, Rachael. The chemistry is alarming and desperate rather than romantic.

The happy ending in the 1982 version has been axed. The future in The Final Cut is far bleaker.

Indeed, if Scott is to be believed, the entire future of cinematic science fiction is already doomed. He astonished the Venice Film Festival in 2008 when he declared that the genre was now as outmoded as the Western. Utter nonsense, of course. But if that means he will stop tinkering with this stunning, seminal film then we ought to be grateful.

– James Christopher, The Times

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