In a not-so-distant cyberpunk future, mankind has created mechanical beings identical to them in almost every way – replicants – with the one key difference that they are slaves, cursed to live for only four years. Illegal on Earth after an uprising on another colony, it the the job of the Blade Runner to hunt down and retire (kill) replicants that find their way here.
Only it’s not so simple as the job description would make it out to be as a seasoned Blade Runner, Deckard (Harrison Ford) finds out when he is tasked with retiring an elite combat replicant, Roy (Rutger Hauer) and his companions who have made their way to our planet in an attempt to meet their maker and prolong their lifespans.
Perhaps the best thing about Blade Runner’s presentation is how it doesn’t portray the replicants as human beings, but as their own separate beings that have an equal right to live. There’s something cold about them, and something unnerving, but never something that feels evil. For as many bad things we may see them do, it’s hard to blame them for their radicalism given the circumstances of their existence. In fact, for as eerie as they are, there is also something quite admirable about them as they march confidently into a room to meet their maker, the person who gave them life and who condemned them to a lifetime of slavery, and to challenge him and his ideas. Could humans do that? If we found a way to heaven and spoke to God, could we challenge his ideas without fear or hesitation? I doubt it. But these replicants did it to the closest thing they have to God, and took it upon themselves to kill him when he turned out to be just as lacking in information on how to better their lives as they were.
As a main antagonist, Roy embodies all of these ideas and it is up to Rutger Hauer to somehow convey them in his performance, which is something he does excellently well. He is immediately sympathetic despite his jaded nature, but also highly intimidating and very unpredictable on account of the existential fight he has decided to take up against not only his creator, but those who make living by hunting down replicants like himself, the Blade Runners.
Likewise, Harrison Ford puts in an excellent performance as Deckard. Contrary to what I had expected going into this film, Blade Runners are less like super police on patrol, and more like a cross between detectives and bounty hunters, who must gather and examine evidence in order to track their target, act and talk their way through conversations to gather information and finally make a kill without remorse or mercy. The writing, and Harrison Ford’s performance, convey this very well because of the actor’s natural charisma and the interesting ways in which the character obtains information on his targets. And yet there is another layer to his character; He is a bad person who is openly manipulative and self interested. Regardless of whether or not he believes that replicants should or should not be hunted, it comes across as if he’d rather not do his job altogether until he’s forced into it by law enforcement. But when he makes a kill, it shakes him to the core. He must rest, wash himself and contemplate on what he’s done. Is it because he doesn’t think replicants should be hunted? Or merely because he’d rather not kill anyone in general? That’s up for debate.
When these two characters come together, Deckard and Roy, it is the hunter who becomes the hunted as the replicant pursues the Blade Runner through a desolated building, pushing him to his limits in order to survive. Knowing there are only minutes left for him to live, Roy appears crazed with his frightening howls and monologues echoing through the halls to intimidate his prey. He hurts Deckard, taunts his futile attempts to escape and allows himself to be hurt knowing that Deckard’s attempts to kill him will be useless. And yet, when Deckard appears to have got himself killed, Roy saves him and speaks to Deckard of the things he’s seen, and of the fear he has felt inside of him for his whole life – the same fear he had put into Deckard – before dying upon a rooftop. Nothing remains on Deckard’s face except for something that might be appreciation, or a realisation, that the replicants may not be the great antagonists he had always thought they were. Or, at the very least, that they are as vulnerable as him, and are thus not deserving of being hunted down.
Blade Runner is quite an ambiguous film with a lot going on, all of which leaves a lot to think about. Sometimes the film is a tad too dark. Sometimes you can’t tell what’s going on during chase scenes in the packed streets. Sometimes its age shows itself, and the special effects look out of place. This film is far from impenetrable, and features other characters who are stated to be as dangerous as Roy who are killed by Deckard as though they were nothing, or characters whose place in the film I felt could have been larger in order to better portray their importance – such is the case with Rachel (Sean Young). But overall it is a solid movie. A good science fiction investigation film, with a hint of action and intrigue, that will stick in your head for a while after watching. For that reason, I would recommend this movie.