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Reviews

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Gareth Higgins

Directed by Ridley Scott, Cert 15, 117 mins

The new trailer for the re-release of Blade Runner to UK cinemas goes heavy on the portent, emphasizing the darkness and suspense at the heart of Ridley Scott's astonishing film, now 33 years old. The trailer ends with one of the film's most iconic lines: 'I've seen things you people wouldn't believe,' declares Roy Batty, in Rutger Hauer's indelible performance. The line can be read any number of ways. It could be Batty's forensic truth about his own experience (he goes on to give a couple of examples of the majesty he has glimpsed in space), or an unwitting repetition of fake memory implants that give the impression of having had a past. Or at least more of a past than is possible for Batty, an android ('replicant') created to do the work human beings refuse, now leading a mini rebellion to overthrow his masters. He's on earth along with some friends in the same predicament (the brilliant evocation of brutish and dumb sidekick Brion James; an amazing embodiment of both physical strength and emotional vulnerability from Darryl Hannah; while Joanna Cassidy does more with five minutes of screen time to convey the sheer panic of being terrorized than an entire Transformers quadrilogy). They're there to meet their designer, the Creator, Tyrell, played by Joe Turkel as the creepiest genius inventor ever. If they can get an audience with God, they reason, maybe God can deactivate their inbuilt self-destruct mechanism. It's there because, apparently, once you allow your pet robots to live for long enough, they start to develop feelings. Dangerous stuff, if you want to rule the world. More dangerous still when those feelings manifest as needs, appetites, choices. Earth in 2019 can't cope with a challenge to the psychic boundaries of the industrial prison camp that Los Angeles resembles. Robots with brains and hearts might have an inconvenient way of reminding humans of how mechanical they've become. That's the premise of Blade Runner, if you ignore the part about the blade runner himself; but I've always found the replicants more interesting than the system chasing them. That said, Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard is able to convey both the rumpled world-weariness of a long-term cop wanting to do something else with his life (we don't ever find out what that is), and the childlike heart of a person coming to realize that everything may not be as it seems. It would be a spoiler to go too far down that road - but let's just say that Blade Runner knows a thing or two about the power of memory to shape our identities, and the magic/madness that it takes for two people to fall in love. Chemicals do what chemicals do, people open their hearts to each other, and the world goes round. The embryonic relationship between Deckard and Sean Young's Rachel really does feel like real life - or at least real life for people living in a dystopian future. Philip K. Dick, whose story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was the basis for Blade Runner used fiction as an exploration of theories about the nature of life that might seem even more outlandish than the ideas here. The possibility that information from the future might be being transmitted via tachyons is just one. The implications of that notion for the way God might communicate with people were most recently dreamed about in Interstellar, just a few months ago. Blade Runner has been around for over three decades now, and its influence is still everywhere. Seeing it in a cinema may not be the equivalent of whatever Roy Batty witnessed, but it's still unbelievable, in the best sense of the word.