|Ford's character owes more to Sam Spade than Flash |
1) Just as Alien was an old dark house horror film, it's obvious that Ridley Scott intended this film to be a film noir detective thriller, and everyone acts accordingly, right down to how pretty much everyone smokes and drinks like their lives depended on it. I particularly like the way production designer Lawrence J. Paull manages to find a way to make the costumes and sets a true melding of futurist and 40's esthetic.
2) There literally isn't a bad performance in the film's 117 minute running time. Even Sean Young. Yes, she's skittish and hesitant like a baby deer and seems a bit emotionally flat--but that's the character. All the identified replicants have broad, child-like personalities that makes them seem off from the identified humans (save Sebastian, but he's set apart by his disease), so in the context, Young's performance works.
3) And here's something I didn't notice until this viewing--there are a number of moments with Young's Rachel, particularly in the major scene she shares with Deckard at the halfway mark, where Scott switches to a Steadicam. Those moments, mainly when it involves Rachel in close-up, display a very subtle unsteadiness not to the insane shakey-cam levels we've experienced recently, but almost subliminally noticable. These shots seem to emphasize Rachel's skittishness as she leaves the sheltered world of Tyrell and enters Deckard.
|Damn...they don't make women like her anymore...|
4) One of the reasons this film works so well is that outside of Harrison Ford (and even Ford is still in the early stages of his big style stardom), none of the actors are particularly well-known. Even Brion James, who probably had the biggest cv at this point amongst the main players, was known for secondary heavy roles. This creates a veracity that feeds into our accepting the world painted here whole.
5) I miss actresses like Joanna Cassidy, who had an unselfconsciousness about their bodies. There's really no doubt that it's all her in that scene where Dekard runs down Zora, and she is spectacular.
6) I find it fascinating how the Tyrell and Sebastian suss out what Roy and Priss are quickly, and respond not with the revulsion you'd get from Deckard's debriefing scene, but a pleased wonder. I particularly find Tyrell's discussion with Roy, explaining how they've tried a number of things to cure the short lifespan, fascinating...the fact that he argues how Roy should embrace the brevity of his life displays a certain depth corporate questionable types wouldn't display in the many imitators afterwards.
7) The biggest difference between this version and the theatrical one is, of course, the lack of Ford's voiceover. The film is still understandable, as the plot is pretty straightforward and linear...however (and here comes some heresy) the voiceover might not be out of place. This is for almost an hour and thirty minutes a film noir, where the voiceover is a standard trope. However....
|His origins may be Frankenstien, but make no mistake--|
Roy Batty is the big bad wolf.
8) There's a decided, but not jarring, shift in the film from the moment Deckard enters the Bradbury Hotel from film noir to a horror film. I'd say it becomes an old style horror movie, with Priss and Roy literally playing monster in stalking and trying to kill Deckard. Hell, Roy's howling as he runs around naked save for black biker shorts makes it explicit that this last replicant has become a modern day Wolf Man hunting the prey that seeks to end the life it wants to extend.
9) It's been so long since I've seen this film that it's a shock seeing William Sanderson in such a gentle, repressed role. First off because he looks so young save for the shots where we see all the lines in his face, but secondly because we're so used to Sanderson being hard-asses and assholes. Seeing him play this pathetic figure so starved for human contact that he lets his own death in is surprising.
10) One of my favorite things in this film as a whole? The lighting. Sometimes using natural light, sometimes using color in key ways....and frequently taking advantage of the sweeping spots that seem to permeate the city...it once again gives us another element that makes the film seem alien, but also firmly in a territory we're familiar with.
Overall...a film that I had to grow up a little to appreciate (I actually walked out on it on opening day in 1982 at the ninety minute mark, thinking it boring and plodding), this is another perfect storm of a film, where all the disparate parts come to together to create something unique and wondrous. And hell, it's the only film you can say helped launch an entire literary sub-genre in cyberpunk. Absolutely essential viewing.