Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Alternate Best Actor 2017: Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Gosling did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Officer KD6-3.7 in Blade Runner 2049.

Blade Runner 2049 is the outstanding sequel to the 1982 film about a future defined by the existence of androids called replicants that humanity uses and disposes of as they see fit.

I will admit upon initially hearing of the sequel to the original film I had some concerns. It easily could have been a lazy cash grab similair to Ridley Scott's Alien Covenant. What gave an obvious glimmer of hope though was that it was being helmed by director Denis Villeneuve whose previous efforts were that of a devoted filmmaker who only seems interested in projects with at least some ambition. Coming into the film the first time I had no idea exactly what to think, though I was developing some random theories in my head, where they were going to take the original story given that the promotional material was more focused on images than the actual plot. My theories of where this film would take us was instantly turned on its head from the opening scene of the film where we meet our lead played by Ryan Gosling. I suspected he was going to be a replicant but I thought it was going to be a revelation further in the film. This is one of the many brilliant decisions in the narrative as it begins with an alternate perspective as we follow this Officer with the serial number KD6-3.7 known for short as K. The replicant who works as a titular Blade Runner aka a police officer who specializes in retiring replicants who have committed any form of rebellion from their original intent. Unlike Harrison Ford's Deckard from the original film, who may or may not be a replicant, here we know that Officer K has the job of killing his own which offers a very different viewpoint in which to broach this vision of the future.

If I had known more clearly of this casting and character I might have had some concerns. Obviously Ryan Gosling is one of the most talented actors of his generation however, despite loving his turn in Drive, his performances as more understated characters were starting to become a little stale, and in 2016 he thankfully offered two memorable extroverted turns. The concern of this return of course could never inspire itself since I was not aware of it until I was already engrossed into the film, and more importantly, in regards to that concern, Ryan Gosling's performance. From the outset of his performance a great task is impressed upon his work, and to a slightly lesser extent Sylvia Hoeks's performance as the replicant Luv the girl Friday to the malevolent creator of the replicants Wallace (Jared Leto), which is to realize this new form of replicant that is described in the opening text of the film. A replicant that does not run, and is no longer like the rather emotional androids we found in the original film through Sean Young's Rachael or Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty. They are suppose to exist in a different way in which free will is not a concept. Gosling's portrayal of this not only establishes that but perfectly differentiates his work from his previous minimalist turns. Gosling's work is fascinating here in this exact creation of K from the opening which is to define K essentially through his profession, which is as a blade runner obviously.

Gosling's performance finds this way of the new replicant which is this almost exact amount of humanity required for existence and interaction. Gosling's performance is incredible in this consistency of the portrayal of this as he makes K enough of a human in that he would not be overly off-putting to actual humans, but also separated enough to clearly denote that he has been made rather than born. In his opening scene where he interrogates and then executes a rogue older replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), Gosling portrays the part with essentially this exact precision. Gosling projects this manner of an intelligent though perhaps too direct detective in the way he speaks to Morton. He does not do it in a truly robotic way, but almost a too effective of a fashion in terms of the interrogation. It's remarkable as Gosling reveals a machines way of being the perfect detective, which includes the right bit of humanity. He offers just a bit of that in his gentle small talk for a moment when he speaks about not wanting to try Morton's garlic until he's done with the "harder part" of his day. There are no mistakes in this act as Gosling shows the efficiency of someone not bread but created for the purpose of being a detective. This includes just enough of the courtesy, that most humans would appreciate being there, but only enough of a courtesy. Gosling shows this small talk as basically part of the detectives method as he attempts to calm the man into giving himself up, but when he doesn't Gosling is equally effective in delivering the cold brutality needed for a hired killer.

Gosling's performance is amazing in how well he fashions this state that establishes what is this future replicant. After he disposes of Morton Gosling portrays again this directness in K as he surveys the area to fully understand the situation as required by his duty, though again with just enough of a bit of comforting asides for his superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) when describing his injuries from fighting Morton. This little aside though is again so effectively portrayed by Gosling as this enough of an emotion not to be eerie when describing the situation, but not enough that K could ever define himself as a person to another person. When returning to the station Gosling only all the more develops this compelling idiosyncratic creation of what a replicant is now. K, even as he walks by hostile humans, Gosling grants a retiring subservient body language as he almost hides from those calling him a "skin job" as confronting a human would be against his very nature as programmed. He is instead is attuned to avoid and stay very much in his place. One of my favorite scenes in this film, in which I have many, is when K is run through his base line test as though he is a computer where he is given a series of potentially emotional prompts that require a mechanized response. Gosling effortlessly depicts this strange juxtaposition where he hones these pointed delivers, and nearly vacant stare, but only with just this threadbare connective emotional tissue Gosling gives the most minor evocation of as though it is a required cushion for the replicant, an ever thin one.

Although K is clearly designed for a purpose we still follow him as he goes about his day even past working directly as a detective. Gosling uses essentially that programming baseline as this anchor as a starting point for use to remove that distance, as even though he is clearly not a human there is something human there. Again though that human factor seems a comfort for the replicant to function correctly as we see him go home where his only company is a hologram designed to be anyone's company named Joi (Ana de Armas), and he lives a life of very slight escapism within his small apartment. Gosling carefully does not change the nature of K outside of performing his duty and properly still portrays the replicant that is K even outside of his work. Gosling instead exudes just the right degree of contentment in this escapism again that is this certain core within K, but also faint in a way. Gosling naturally discovers this unique dynamic within his performance as he shows enough of a detachment in these moments to still be artificial, but he places that beyond what lies in his eyes that grants just that undercurrent of the stabilizing emotional connection required for such a complex being to exist at this level. Gosling's work provides such an unique foundation for who officer K is. He creates an understanding of how this replicant works and behaves, but also provides how there may be more though in very atypical way.

The first hint of the core of emotion perhaps shifting within K comes when he along with the lieutenant figure out that Morton was part of a group of replicants hiding a child born by a replicant. The initial breakdown of the information Gosling again delivers quickly and efficiently as K once again doing his job just as as a loyal worker should. When Joshi tells K to continue the investigation and find and destroy all evidence of this child, that breaks the very nature of the replicants, there is just a glimpse of something else. It is a brilliant moment of acting by Gosling as though his state is suddenly momentarily broken, as he holds in this gasp of emotion that Gosling seems to show as this conflict between the programming of subservience against that baseline of more empathetic emotion. Gosling realizes this in a second long reaction before portraying K seemingly having reestablished himself as a servant when firmly stating that K is incapable of saying no to the request. He seemingly then begins the investigation to destroy the child. The investigation is not performed alone though as K brings Joi along with him as he tries to uncover the mystery. Gosling's performance is again wholly remarkable in the way he subtly reveals this minor change within K as he reacts to the idea of this child born yet still of the same nature as him. The transition of this is so carefully and delicately handled by Gosling's work which so effectively realizes the emotional crux of the film.

There is no moment in the investigation that is taken for granted by Gosling's astonishing portrayal of K slowly unraveling the truth. This is in part in that relationship with Joi where I would argue Gosling and Armas have the most heartwarming chemistry out of any onscreen couple from 2017 despite neither character being human, in fact one barely has a physical form. The two together though find something so special by finding the limitations and creating this very specific form of expression that comes within that. On Armas's end it is interesting as she seems to show here move past Joi's base programming by having moments of not just overwhelming simplistic affection but rather something more complex. Gosling matches this through his depiction of K slowly having more than just minor comforts in his interactions with Joi. He begins to look her as more than just this distraction from the hellish landscapes around them, but in his face he grants a deeper meaning as he looks at her that conveys a definite love as they go on their journey together. Gosling gradually creates a growing attachment that he offers a more defined concern and care for her, even though she technically is just a hologram. Although most even disregard his choice in having a "fake" girlfriend, Gosling finds the attachment along with Armas that makes Joi seem so much more than just this pleasure hologram. Their relationship seems to mean more as K looks to her as a true companion while she attempts to give more than an idea of a life, even trying to give him a real name by calling him Joe instead of just the first letter of his serial number.

The investigation leads seemingly to K's implanted past involving a memory of his as a boy where he hid a wooden horse. When Gosling originally delivers the story it is in that fashion of the machine recounting it on the surface as something phony just to grant him solace, however Gosling infuses the words with a certain haunting quality quietly within that at the same time as K knows the memory to be false however he does find a type of comfort in it still. Gosling's work is stunning as he maintains that replicant status, but tests it. The first being when the mystery leads him to seemingly the same wooden horse that he remembers from his false memory. Gosling again has such a simply incredible singular moment as he portrays this internalized burst of emotion, that he plays as this withdrawn outburst as though it is the machine trying to maintain the man, yet is struggling to do so. Gosling shows this way the emotion changes though as that undercurrent switches from this core of comfort to now an almost searing pain. Gosling in the second baseline test in his expression now attempts vacancy yet a terrible intensity lies within it, his words attempt repetition to suit the programming of robotics yet malfunctions as even the mechanized response now seem messy with sentiment. Gosling's portrait of this barrier breaking as the function against emotion is becoming imbalanced is absolutely awe inspiring. My favorite moment of this is when he has his memory of the horse tested to see if it is real. When he is told it is Gosling delivers his only major overt moment of expression and it is earth shattering. Gosling's single moment of this primal yell of sheer anguish is heart wrenching as not only is it so flawlessly implemented and earned within his performance, but it also captures this torment of K both in regards to what the memory means but also as it clashes against what is to be his very nature through this expression.

K chooses to follow this revelation, that he is the child, and therefore the son of Rachel and Deckard from the first film. K tracks down Deckard in his hideaway in an abandoned Las Vegas. Gosling carefully maneuvers this scene in portraying this passivity again in K, but now with a different intention within it. K tries to not harm Deckard, even when he originally attacks K thinking he has come to kill him, and Gosling shows this as not a programming design rather a genuine desire. When they speak eventually about his past Gosling is outstanding in finding this nuance in the way he speaks of the child with this level of curiosity and concern. He speaks underlining some hopeful intention to see this connection between them particularly with his almost loving delivery of "stranger" towards Deckard, after Deckard had explained that sometimes to love and protect someone you have to be a stranger. Finding Deckard though leads to nothing but tragedy though as Deckard is captured by Luv and Wallace who wish to dissect his child, and Joi is "killed" by Luv. If this was not enough K is left to learn that he also was not the child, since it was a girl not a boy. Gosling's work is devastating by wearing the sheer impact of this within yet still staying true to K's character. It leaves all the greater impact because Gosling exudes this within this internalized way still realizing the nature of his origin still, but now the emotion overwhelming the center of his being.

One of the most moving moments is when there appears as respite as K comes face to face with a "living" advertisement for the Joi program. For a moment in Gosling eyes there is a comfort as he looks at her that turns to all the greater sorrow when it calls him "Joe", and Gosling conveys K understanding that possibly Joi was only acting on her programming the entire time. Gosling though finds this conviction through the emotion to be more than the machine making it entirely convincing that he would go to save Deckard from his captors. There is a very simple moment at the end of the action sequence after K has saved Deckard, but it is the evidence of the greatness of Gosling's work. Oddly enough though it comes from Deckard as he calls out to see if K is okay by calling out his name as Joe. It isn't so much Ford's delivery, although there's nothing wrong with it, but I find the moment so very affecting because of Gosling. The reason though is Gosling's work through the film gradually granted such humanity to K's journey to the point that seeing him recognized as a person and not a machine is a deeply poignant revelation. Gosling's creation of this arc couldn't more graceful or resonate. He gives the story of Deckard's child its real power through his reflection of what it means within this individual finding his own purpose and sense of self through it. His final moments of the film one no longer sees  a detached machine making its way through the world, one sees a man finally finding contentment fully on the surface. Gosling's performance is masterful as he gives us the machine in his realization of the replicant that is K in the opening of the film, but by the end of the story he reveals the man within.

50 comments:

Psifonian said...

Sublime review, perfectly encapsulating Gosling's brilliance.

Note: Simon Russell Beale, "The Death of Stalin." The entire ensemble deserves write-ups, but he needs to be prioritized.

Anonymous said...

I’ve been reading your reviews for a while and I love this whole site but I’ve never commented yet. I couldn’t agree more with this performance though! Amazing performance and review!

Evan Hanson said...

My favorite movie of 2017, such a masterpeice.

Calvin Law said...

Reading about this performance really helps me appreciate the performance even more. I'm perhaps one of the members of this blog who don't completely love the film (still like it a great deal), but I completely agree that it's brilliant work, and actually the film (for me) suffers a bit when it moves away from him. I feel like my dilemma with this is the same as yours with 'Arrival', Louis - where whenever the film focuses squarely on its protagonist it's brilliant, but when it drifts away I tune out a bit.

Really glad Gosling's got another 5 though, and I think he has this in the bag (though I would love it if Stanton won - I'm not even going to make a secret of how much I adore that performance).

Robert MacFarlane said...

One of the year’s finest performances, and the big reason the film really worked for me. I will say I think my interpretation of Joi is more... cynical than yours.

Calvin Law said...

Also, thoughts/ratings on the rest of the cast, since I don't believe you've ever really given them in full? After my last re-watch, my own have changed to:

Gosling - 5
Ford - 3.5
Armas - 5
Leto - 3
Hoeks - 3.5
Juri - 4
Bautista - 4
Wright - 3
Davis - 3

Mitchell Murray said...

Haven't seen this yet because I haven't watch the original Bladerunner - blasphemy I know. Even so I tend to like Gosling more in his natural and extroverted performances. So like Louis I was also cautious about him returning to the acting style that put him into a rut for five years.

Calvin Law said...

Psifonian: I liked the film a great deal, but could you give your thoughts on Beale? I liked his performance but I thought he was clashing somewhat with the tone of the film, but maybe I wasn't reading into the performance in the right way. My MVP was probably Isaacs.

Michael McCarthy said...

Does anyone else give Hoeks a 5 for this? She's stayed with me the most out of the supporting cast.

Charles H said...

Phenomenal review. This performance might be my favorite of Gosling. It's right up there with Drive. The ending is fantastic too, the best ending of 2017.

It took me multiple watches to finally appreciate this performance to the fullest. Much like all of the rest of Gosling's work. He's one of the best working today i think.

Charles H said...

I would actually give Hoeks a five. Mostly all of the supporting cast are all high ratings for me. Ford was close to a five

Calvin Law said...

Ford went down a bit for me on re-watch, I found a few of his reactions in the final action sequence kind of lacking. And while Leto and Hoeks went up on re-watch I'd still say their scenes are my least favourite of the film.

Louis Morgan said...

Psifonian:

Thanks.

I haven't watched "The Death of Stalin" yet, but I'll be sure to do so before the Oscars.

Calvin:

Will do...soon.

Robert:

I think the cynical interpretation might actually be the more accurate one, due to the pink Joi's words, but I'll try to hold onto my more optimistic view.

Anonymous:

Thanks, and thank you for commenting.

Michael:

Yo!

Charles H said...

Louis: Your updated top 10 moments for Gosling?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Got any ideas on what might have happened to American cinema if the Hays Code had never existed?

Deiner said...

Great review Louis, and I agree with you, Ryan Gosling was sensational in this film. I'm a big fan of his in general. I really need (and want) to rewatch Blade Runner 2049. I've only seen it once and I was sick when I watched it, so I don't think I appreciated it as much as many of you did.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I mean, I still have my quibbles with the film (some gender issues, Wallace as a villain, some of the editing), but its peaks hit such a sweet spot with me that it's impossible for me deny its power. Plus K was a character that appeals to me in general: a "fake" who wants to be real. I always seem to find this sort of archetype compelling. (There's a reason Roxas, Xion, and Axel are my favoirte Kingdom Hearts characters)

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Great review and I completely agree. He’s spectacular. Also I agree with you about Joi (for me the moment in which she actively goes against K’s will and decides to be permanently transferred in the emanator is an indication that, at least to an extent, she had her own conscience) though I don’t think there is a definite answer and it’s purposefully ambiguous.

Robert MacFarlane said...

As for my interpretation of Joi; I do think she was essentially fake. Her wants and desires could easily be just manifestations of K's own desires. she is after all "made" for him. Even with the utmost sincerity de Armas puts into her performance, it just makes me think that it's still a program that holds a mirror K's internalized emotional state. But oddly, the tragedy of it makes it all the more compelling for me.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I think both interpretations regarding Joi are valid as there are many arguments to be made for both sides. I think the ambiguity is what makes her performance so haunting - and it’s a shame that de Armas’ brilliant work of such a tricky character got ignored by both the critics and industry awards.

Robert MacFarlane said...

It's a shame the movie in general didn't pick up more steam, but I think time will be kind to it.

Bryan L said...

Louis: And your 11-20 Gosling acting moments?

Gosling-5
Ford-5 (Just for the scene with Leto alone)
Leto-4
Hoeks-4.5
Armas-5
Bautista-3.5
Wright-4
Davis-3
Juri-4

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Is this Gosling's career best.

Charles H said...

My interpretation of Joi would be quite similar, a reflection of K in that sense of having the same desires.

If only the film picked up way more attention. Films like this usually don't pick up attention for the actors though. Much like Silence in 2016, the critics and awards always leave out the best films.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Question to those familiar with Death Note the anime/manga: Do you think Stanfied’s Get Out costar Kaluuya would have been a good L? Because I’m writing a spec script and I keep imagining him instead of Stanfield. I guess maybe because of how sleepy and sad his eyes look in comparison. Granted, my version of L is not going in the same direction.

Luke Higham said...

Brilliant work.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Chastain playing Beverley in It: Chapter Two. Muschietti did work with her on Mama which was decent enough, but I personally would've preferred Amy Adams.

And it's now rumoured that Danny Boyle is top choice for Bond 25.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: Do you have a list of the films Louis will cover for Film Thoughts?

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: Give me a few hours and I'll get it for you.

Michael McCarthy said...

Robert: I think he’d have been pretty good, although I think he has a naturally trustworthy presence that doesn’t necessarily fit with L. I think you’re original idea of Rami Malek was perfect.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Robert: Kaluuya could have been good, but L in the manga and anime is someone who functions on a different wavelength than most people, which requires quite the unique screen presence. Rami Malek, based on his work in Mr. Robot, would be amazing.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Well part of it is L’s British nationality from the original. I’m resisting the idea of Malek because Mr. Robot made him too obvious of a choice. I don’t know, the way I’m writing him is more... melancholy than the original.

RatedRStar said...

L must be EMO HE MUST BE.... =D

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I think Louis should be able to give you that list. It's Kingdom Of Heaven next and there's a very large gap between it and whatever the next one is. I doubt its a long one.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: Thanks :)

Luke Higham said...

Reviews are really good for Annihilation.

Luke Higham said...

Guys, what are your 5 or 10 hopes for 2018. It could be a film that's well-reviewed, an actor's first nomination or win, a really great performance etc.

Bryan L said...

Luke:
-Ben Foster getting at least a Globes nomination for one of his two roles this year.
-Venom turning out at least ok (Tom Hardy!)
-Gosling getting another 5 for First Man, along with Chazelle stepping out of jazz for the first time
-Christian Bale as Dick Cheney (Sue me. I liked The Big Short.)
-The Dark Phoenix storyline finally being done well come November

Mitchell Murray said...

I don't really like to predict these things right away, considering how much can shift and surprise throughout every year. For whats on my radar, though..

Infinity War actually being a decent end to the MCU.
First Man and Gosling's performance being well received (The guys on a roll)
Sicario 2 turning out not to be the unnecessary sequel it seems to be.

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: I'm tempering my expectations for Dark Phoenix after the failure of Apocalypse.

My biggest hopes this year are for Kursk, Radegund, Peterloo and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to deliver. I hope Outlaw King exceeds my expectations after Mackenzie's last film, Hell Or High Water. Schoenaerts gets his 3rd five in Kursk and Malek giving a great performance as Freddie Mercury.

I expect Hardy to be really good, regardless of the quality of Venom. Reviews for Isle Of Dogs are great.

Mitchell: The MCU won't finish anytime soon.

Michael McCarthy said...

I’m really rooting for The Irishman to be great. Scorsese got screwed by the promoters of Silence and I’m hoping he can build his goodwill back up. I also really don’t want to see De Niro’s and Pacino’s incredible contribution to film be dismissed just because they ran out of steam a bit in old age.

Luke Higham said...

Michael: I'm hoping De Niro will deliver his best work since Goodfellas but I'm afraid it won't be coming out until next year.

Bryan L said...

Luke: I also hopes for Radegund, since I like Malick WAY more when he has an actual narrative to draw from. And Malek as Mercury of course.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the jump cuts in Breathless.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 2000s Sicario? I'm thinking Charlize Theron for Kate and Viggo Mortensen for Matt Graver. Bit stumped for Alejandro (only ones I can think of are Alfred Molina and Andy Garcia.)

Matt Mustin said...

Bryan: Javier Bardem for Alejandro.

Lezlie said...

Jimmy Smits for Alejandro, maybe?

Michael McCarthy said...

I second Jimmy Smits.

Mitchell Murray said...

Kate: She'd be a little old at the time but I' go Holly Hunter, though Theron's honesty a terrific choice.
Matt: Woody Harrelson (He's shown the authority and has played ambiguity to great effect before.)
Alejandro: Demian Bichir (He doesn't have the same menace as Del Toro/Bardem, but he's the right age, nationality and could definitely deliver on emotional conflict based on his one nomination.)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Well due to societal standards some hammer was going to come down either way I would imagine, as even European cinema from the time, which wasn't always under a code, isn't exactly at some other extreme. There were just certain norms that were followed, and the loss of the Hays code was natural with the loss of certain reservations in society itself.

Charles:

Ask again in the results.

Tahmeed:

Ask again in the results.

Luke:

Of those two choices I'd opt for Chastain as I'd say she looks more like Sophia Lillis. In addition its a role that would actually return Chastain to her early work, and play to her strengths, so I'm all for it.

If they keep Boyle in check I think he could work, I doubt they'll let him go hog wiled with the kinetic editing.

Anonymous:

Although I can certainly appreciate some later uses this film influenced in that regard I find this film's use of them tiresome. The one director who I'd say in a modern sense captures their use here the best is Stephen Soderberg which is to make the scenes end short rather than naturally, and then begin early in a most mind numbing way.

Bryan L:

Ask again in the results.

Fine choices, I'd concur the put forth choice of Smits.