“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”
So begins a brief soliloquy that is one of the most heart-rending and moving in film history.
It’s set in 2018 in a dark, dirty, dystopian Los Angeles and Hauer plays Roy Batty, a genetically-engineered artificial human called a replicant – beings almost indistinguishable from humans who are created to be unquestioning slaves, doing jobs on “off-world colonies” that are too hard or dangerous for humans.
The life-spans of the most sophisticated – and thus potentially most dangerous – replicants are deliberately limited to four years, to prevent them developing emotions and free-will and rebelling against their masters.
However, prior to the start of the film, a replicant uprising has occurredoff-world, leading to them being outlawed on Earth, with specialist cops, called blade runners, hunting them down and “retiring” them.
Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a semi-retired blade runner who is lured back for one last job when Batty, who is nearing the end of his four-year lifespan, and his gang of fellow replicants turn up on Earth looking to confront their creator and thus their de facto executioner.
Like the best science fiction, Blade Runner isn’t really about the futuristic trappings, it just uses that setting to examine themes common to us all in the here and now – such as scientific morality, the role of religion in society, free will, abuse of power, the nature of humanity and the spectre of mortality.
Many of these themes are beautifully encapsulated in the speech Batty delivers to Deckard at the end of their final, rooftop showdown:
It’s commonly thought that Rutget Hauer wrote this speech himself. In fact, a speech was in the script but Hauer rewrote it, shortening it and adding his own lines, most notably the “tears in the rain”. The final version of the scene is undoubtedly his finest movie moment.