If cinema has taught me anything about policing, it is that the key to being a good detective lies in having the proper outerwear. Nowhere is this more true than in the dystopian future imagined in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and sequel Blade Runner 2049, in which detectives skulk through a dark and grimy Los Angeles searching for rogue humanoid replicants to forcibly “retire.”
The original film (based on Phillip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep) follows Rick Deckherd (played by Harrison Ford), an LAPD cop on the hunt for six super-strong replicants who have returned from space colonies to earth as stowaways. The movie follows a pulp, film noir format, with Deckherd following clues and twisting arms in various futuristic dives around the city. What was once a sunny, albeit smoggy environment has turned downright poisonous, which is why so many people are leaving earth for space colonies. (The replicants are slaves used to build these colonies.) Instead of sunshine, Deckherd is doused in acrid rain, so he wears a long brown coat with a kind of elastic collar throughout the film. And unlike the action movies popular when Blade Runner was released, Deckherd isn’t very heroic, and he gets his ass kicked by the replicants a lot. The coat too, takes a beating, splashed with oil, showered in glass from an exploding window, and is of course, soaked in a constant flood of gray rain.
Blade Runner 2049, like any sequel must, takes the DNA of its progenitor and amplifies it to outrageous proportions. For this reason, the film’s protagonist, K (played by Ryan Gosling), wears an even more iconic long coat, to let everybody know here’s inherited Deckherd’s role. This coat is even more utilitarian, with a gigantic, faux-fur collar that K pulls over his face to protect himself from fumes of a city that have grown even more toxic in the intervening 30 years. Gosling’s character wears it in virtually every scene, and like it’s predecessor, this coat takes a lot of abuse. K is beaten, shot, stabbed, ground into the dirt, and nearly drowned in a putrid sea, all while wearing his coat.
In some ways, the coat in Blade Runner 2049 might even be considered a supporting character, as Gosling says and emotes so little throughout the film that we’re left to judge the state of his mind by his increasingly haggard appearance. Through it all, his coat hangs in there, persisting loyally—filthy and stiff with various dried fluids, but always, present. As Christmas approaches, consider adding an Oscar-worthy coat to your wishlist. You may not need to protect yourself from radioactive dust or the fists of homicidal cyborgs, but when you’re facing the prospect of “wintery mix,” you can still pop that collar and pretend you’re in a film of your own.