Blade Runner

For a lot of people who enjoy Blade Runner, the key scene is the “Tears in Rain” monologue of Roy Batty, a runaway Nexus-6 android played by Rutger Hauer at the peak of his acting prowess. Batty and a group of three other Nexus-6s have mutinied from the off-world colony where they have been stationed and journeyed to Los Angeles where they hope to track down somebody who can save a ticking time bomb hidden in their genetic code. Lest they grow too old and develop enough emotional self-awareness to rebel against their masters, the Nexus-6s have a four-year lifespan, and time is growing short for Roy and his allies Leon, Zhora and Pris. Harrison Ford is Rick Deckard, a burnt-out Blade Runner—an assassin cop who specializes in killing rogue Nexus units—tasked to find Roy and company and, as his lieutenant delicately puts it, “air ‘em out.”

By the end of the movie, it’s just down to Rick and Roy, and Roy clearly has him beat. But rather than kill Deckard, he spends his last moments with him and haunts him with a beautiful monologue that just about anybody who knows this movie can recite by heart. And then he dies. It’s one of my favorite moments in cinema.

But for Blade Runner, it is not my moment of truth.

I love Roy’s final scene, and I love Roy as a character. He is living on borrowed time, and he knows it, and he puts his full faculties on overdrive as he tries both to gain an audience with Eldon Tryell, the industrialist/evil genius who invented and manufactures the Nexus androids…as well as navigate a world that he is desperate to join, yet can’t quite enter.

Roy, for all his dark charisma, lethality and leadership, is still just a child. We see this most when he finally manages to meet Tyrell, causing the entire movie to shift. To that point, we think this story is about Deckard’s mission, but it’s not. It’s about Roy’s: to get more life or die trying. His conversation with his creator is a fascinating game of mental chess as Roy probes and feints, trying to get his master to give him forbidden knowledge, only to realize that Tyrell isn’t toying with Roy. He simply cannot help him. “You were made as well as we could make you,” Tyrell says. “Not to last,” answers Roy, who at last knows he is out of options.

And this is where the scene turns. Roy does not despair and sulk; he turns to wrath as only a toddler can. How dare Tyrell condemn him to a life just long enough to know what he is losing when it slips through his swiftly stiffening fingers? Roy embraces Tyrell, then kisses him, and then turns that moment of intimacy into something brutal and horrible and final and transformative. When it is over, we see a different kind of Roy. Through his act of patricide, he has crossed a line he was never supposed to have reached. He has outlived his parent. And while he grimaces during the crime itself, afterwards, he cannot help but smile at his handiwork, for he knows that he got more out of his life than was meant for him. Tyrell, had he been able to see from beyond the grave, would have been proud.

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