Claire Black: Redmayne’s really useful engine

Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe
Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe
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FROM the sublime to the ridiculous. Oscar winning, flame-haired, perpetually tuxedo-wrapped thesp Eddie Redmayne has signed on to voice the part of a new engine in the next Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends feature film. Talk about the curse of Oscar. I realise that this is not the Eddie Redmayne news that most people are talking about. Most people are blown away by the transformation apparent in the first photograph released of him as transgender artist, Lili Elbe, for Tom Hooper’s new movie, The Danish Girl. I grant you that it is both thrilling and delightful and just a tiny bit amusing that Redmayne, as it turns out, is actually a more beautiful woman than Nicole Kidman, who was originally cast as Elbe but dropped out.

But if you share your home with a Thomas-obsessed 18-month-old then you’ll know that tales of love and art and gender identity are nothing to stories from the island of Sodor, including why Edward is mentioned in the title song and how it is that the engines manage to keep their drivers trapped in their booths without them ever speaking, taking a break or just refusing to shovel any more coal into the fizzling fireboxes of one or other of those supremely irritating trains.

Crying in the rain over Blade Runner’s cruellest cut

TIME to Die. It might be the best line in Blade Runner, one of the best ever science fiction films, uttered at the conclusion of the most poignant of cinematic soliloquies concerning mortality and the abject stupidity of humankind, but it isn’t a sentiment that Hollywood willingly accepts when it comes to money-making movies. Sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots – it’s as though new ideas are illegal in Tinsel Town.

But Blade Runner 2? A sequel to that dystopian classic, that most perfect, profound, prescient imagining of our future? No, no, no.

Harrison Ford has been mooted to reprise his role as Rick Deckard for years too, but I confess, I thought the broken bones caused by being caught in the slammed door of the Millennium Falcon and the fact that he’ll be 75 by the time this new movie comes out had put paid to that.

Based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner lost money when it was first released but it has become a classic. Rightly so. Set in Los Angeles in 2019, a city of perpetual rain, urban decay, hustlers and flying cars (such a shame that last prediction about city dwelling didn’t transpire), it is a masterpiece.

Deckard (Harrison Ford channelling Humphrey Bogart right down to the crumpled mac, albeit with extra oomph since he was already Han Solo and about to become Indiana Jones) is a detective who hunts down replicants – super-sophisticated androids who are used as slave labour – who have the temerity to pitch up on earth, trying to escape the fate of being left to have their batteries run down. Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is the leader of a rogue band of replicants who want to meet their maker, the CEO of the Tyrell Corporation, a man with a God-complex sporting Dennis Taylor-style upside down specs. Deckard has to stop them. And while he bloodily, tragically, brilliantly does so, we are treated to a rumination on what it is to be human, the fate of a planet exhausted of all of its resources, and flying cars. Could it be any better?

I’d just like to say, if you haven’t seen Blade Runner then I’m really sorry for all that I’ve just said. But also, what have you been doing since 1982? When director Ridley Scott said on the film’s 25th anniversary back in 2007 that he had “never paid quite so much attention to a movie”, he was telling the truth, because it shows in every scene of all the versions which have been released so far. In my favourite one, The Final Cut, the end comes when the lift doors slide shut, Rachel (another replicant but one who, cruel, cruel world, didn’t know she wasn’t human) and Deckard, who has fallen in love with her, make their bid for freedom.

It’s an ending heavy with uncertainty and danger as well as the tiniest glimmer of hope. This sequel feels a bit like Hollywood has just rammed its foot in between those lift doors and pushed the button for a different floor. I’m not happy. The next time it rains I will be climbing on to a rooftop to release a ceremonial white dove as a sign of mourning.

A workplace near you

TIME isn’t always money, it seems. Apparently workers were not paid for overtime to the tune of £32 billion last year. That is more than six grand for the average wage slave – a term that is becoming scarily accurate. According to a TUC report, the problem is worst in education, with the hospitality industry second worst. More than five million of us work an average of nearly eight hours unpaid every week. That is a serious amount of time spent in the classroom or office or bar or restaurant, wherever it is you earn a crust, for no sponduliks. To put it another way, it’s three movies including trailers and a trip for popcorn. «