Thriller
Donnie Darko
.
Dir: Richard Kelly
Star: Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze
Cert / Year: R / 2001
Format: DVD R1
'

Donnie Darko is a very troubled young man. He lives with his family, and goes to high school just like any other kid. Yet he also walks in his sleep, and talks to a giant rabbit called Frank. Frank gives Donnie advice. He firstly saves his life when a jet engine falls onto his house, but slowly he asks him to do bad things promising him that he will explain time travel to Donnie. Is Donnie going insane, or is what Frank says real and is he able to travel through time. He only has a limited time to find out as Frank says every thing is going to end in 28 days 6 hours 42 minutes 12 seconds.

What is this then? Is it sci-fi? Is it a supernatural thriller, a high school drama? It's difficult to say. It's a bit like a cross between Unbreakable and Twelve Monkeys. I know this sounds weird (yes more weirdness, sorry) but in this case it works. It takes the concept of madness and wraps it in a comic book style supernatural thriller, giving it a disturbingly dark tone. The ambiguity of the supernatural and the insane harks back to Twelve Monkeys, and not since then has this dichotomy been so well explored. The comparison to Unbreakable comes from supernatural elements which also are presented in a comic book style. However where Unbreakable fails due to lack of action and poor pacing Donnie Darko succeeds.

Writer \ director Richard Kelly's script is very clever. It combines the supernatural elements with the average high school life of a normal kid. There are lots of laughs, mainly from Donnie's home and school life, and this major plus point helps bring the proceedings back down to a more normal level. However as the story unfolds slowly things become darker and decidedly stranger. The script is littered with in jokes and clues (some easy to spot, some far too clever for their own good). It all does come together at the end, and while it does have the obligatory shock twist ending it remains quite baffling.

This wouldn't have been so effective but for the talented cast. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent as Donnie playing him with a mixture confusion and insanity. His family is played by his real life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, veteran actress Mary McDonnell who play s his mother, and Holmes Osborne as his dad. They are very effective as Donnie's emotional anchors. Added to this are good guest turns from Katherine Ross (yes the girl from the Graduate) as his therapist, and Drew Barrymore as his teacher. Also worth mentioning is Patrick Swayze who plays a sleazy motivation lecturer, and yes he is very good!

Ok so this film is strange and I know I've said it before but not every one will get on with it. The big problem is that just maybe it's a little too clever. Those who enjoyed Sixth Sense may like this but be warned it is nowhere near as mainstream. It has to be praised for its originality and its refusal to conform from start to end, but as I've said this will probably lose as many fans for this movie as it gains. It is a complicated film and the plot hints littered throughout the movie do mean that it benefits from repeat viewings.

There is a lot to like about Donnie Darko it is well shot, well acted, and brilliantly scripted. The direction is inventive but never over the top, and it is extremely effective on occasion (for example the opening credit sequence). It is original, intelligent, and a fascinating, yet entertaining story. It is the film that Unbreakable should have been, as it plays far more like a graphic novel and it better paced. This film is strange and therefore will have a more limited appeal, but for the more adventurous it can be a highly enjoyable experience.

Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD
Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic A bit grainy
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Nice effects
Features Commentary by director Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal
Additional Cast and Crew Audio Commentary
Very interesting Deleted scenes, that really would have changed the film.
Behind-The-Scenes Interviews
Pointless Website Gallery
Cast and Crew Bios
Trialers and Tv spots
Verdict Picture is not quite perfect, but the disc is very good.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home