Fluorescent-fueled nightmares and neon-lit nights, smoke lingers in the air and silhouettes in the dark. Ridley Scott’s waking nightmare vision of the City of Angels in 2019 is a place where venetian blinds feel right at home with the car flying through the sky outside. Where acid rain rots away at what’s been left behind. Where independent-thinking androids walk side-by-side with mindless humans, where for every tear lost in the rain there are one-hundred-and-six-million more. What Scott missed in aesthetic accuracy, he made up for in note-perfect interactions of the people that inhabit a dying earth, where speaking over public vidphones may seem so far-fetched but the words they speak seem so close to home. Where two possibly inhuman characters do and say what we see everyday with a single glance around at the people sharing a train to whatever job or life they’re going to that day.
As the smog consumes the stars, thick clouds of a muddy grey smoke swims across what was once a thriving skyline, the swirling of the synth scores the distress and contempt of the streets below. Spinners hurl across the sky, people living vertically or not at all. The people a mix of culture, gathered in the last remaining boomtown possibly this side of the equator, it conjures to mind imagery of yesteryear’s ideas of tomorrow. A deep and dark neon-noir, it defies genre. When “science-fiction” can seem like such dirty word, Scott lets the thinking do the talking, crafting a thought-provoking piece where scenes breathe, moving and flowing with more life than its leads.
Early on, we view a room through the same fog-filled vision of its characters, talking from either side of a table. A simple, stark image of an eye being observed. We feel like we’re watching from outside, almost perverse. His eye, blown up to fill our own vision, darts around like a trapped rat. His eyes are filled with fear, while his face remains the same empty and distant face we’ll come to know, furthering our internal questions about his soul, or lack thereof. We beg the interrogator to ask the questions we want to know but they never come. Oddly, we start to feel like maybe we’re the ones probing and poking at this maybe-man-maybe-not, curious enough to keep watching. At the same time, we feel the unease and confusion he must be feeling, and our stomach’s turn at the end of the scene, wondering what we would’ve done depending on what side of the table we were on.
Every frame, every image, every shot of this fever-dream of a film seems so organic and real that the world, even soaked in shadow and neon, feels just like the one I see outside of my window. We’re not so far away from Scott’s City of Angels in 2019, in more ways than one.
Written by Bryson Edward Howe