Cinetreasure: Blade Runner (1982)

In the year 2019, man has developed the technology to create human clones used to serve on off-Earth colonies. A Los Angeles cop must track down a band of replicants who have returned to Earth with unknown intentions.

Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Rating: R

Perhaps the single most provocative, engaging, emotionally, intellectually, and visually stunning story ever captured on film is Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, Alien). Blade Runner is one of a handful of movies that actually accomplishes what all films should do - irreversibly change the life of the viewer in the most profound, fundamental way. At the very least, it will get under your skin, forcing contemplation and introspection.

Sir Ridley Scott has a knack for ripping the guts out of a certain type of genre and, in a whim of cinematic art, reshapes and sculpts the entire genre into something far more powerful and compelling than most craftsmen can muster in a lifetime.

The passion for detail Ridley Scott possesses is evident frame after frame. Pay particular attention to the contrasting patterns of light and dark, hot and cold, modern and antique, or hard and soft. These contrasts represent the metaphysical dialectics conveyed in the film: freedom versus slavery, life versus death, and good versus evil.

Note how often Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) and Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer) move between areas of light and dark. Light and dark are often symbolic of good and evil. Yet both of these characters conveniently shift back and forth between the highlights and shadows of this futuristic world. Keeping this cinematic construct in mind, how do the characters' actions reflect both the good and evil of humanity as the film progresses?

Also keep your eye out for alternating patterns of red (hot) and blue (cold) lights reflected in the characters' faces and in the background. Working with the Director of Photography, Jordan Cronenweth, Scott uses a soft film grain, coupled with a pale tint, to oppose the hard edges and color saturation of neon lamps.

In keeping with the visual patterning, the film's composer, Vangelis (Chariots of Fire, The Bounty, Missing), develops a rhythmic, hypnotic score. The music is especially effective during the opening scene when the audience is first introduced to Los Angeles in the year 2019. Prolonged, pounding beats resonate in timed increments as we delight in various angles of the city. It helps create the illusion that time follows a different design in this future world. When police vehicles encircle the metropolis, modulating music stimulates the sensation of flight. Combined, the potent imagery and music elicits a strong, gut-wrenching emotional response that causes the viewer to feel as if he/she has actually lived the experience and not just watched it.

But here's the last riveting puzzle-piece as to why this film deserves such praise. Whether you watch the original theatrical version or the Director's Final Cut or piece together, in your own mind, all the segments Ridley Scott wanted for the film but had to omit for one reason or another as chronicled in the book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon, the result, no matter how you cut it, is enthralling, first-rate cinema.