Blade Runner

(Ridley Scott, USA, 1982)


Note: This review is of the 1992 Director's Cut, not the 2007 Final Cut.

We have probably all had the experience of seeing a wildly acclaimed film on its first release, and just not understanding what the fuss is about. Perhaps it is only years later, when the hype has cleared away, that one sees the film for what it actually is.

I saw and mainly disliked Ridley Scott's Blade Runner on several occasions since 1982. But finally, watching the director's cut on video, I realised that it is the great art movie of contemporary American cinema.

Adapted from a Philip K. Dick novel, the film spins a slender story in which Deckard (Harrison Ford), detective in a decaying future society, tracks down the members of a rebel gang of "replicants", androids who have only four years to live.

Scott focuses on the strange, disquieting exchanges between Deckard and his prey, especially Rachel (Sean Young) and the darkly angelic Roy (Rutger Hauer at his finest), interrupted only by sudden bursts of cold violence.

It is not hard to see why changes were made and a narration added in the 1982 version. It was a futile attempt to make an extraordinarily cryptic and ambiguous film slightly less so, by trying to include the entire story within the hero's point of view.

But Deckard is no hero, and the guesses he makes about the meaning of what goes on around him are no better than our own.

In an era when every second movie is labelled a cult item, here is one that truly fits the bill – now more than ever. Jonathan Rosenbaum and J. Hoberman, authors of the authoritative book Midnight Movies, categorise it as an intellectual cult-film, because it is so full of mysteries inviting endless speculation and re-interpretation.

The director's cut only makes more alluring that storehouse of secrets which is Blade Runner.

MORE Scott: Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, Thelma and Louise, White Squall

© Adrian Martin February 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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