Friday, August 22, 2008

REVIEW: A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly

Year: 2006
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures
MPAA: Rated R

When I first saw the trailer for A Scanner Darkly, I really wanted to see it. I thought the visual look of the film and interesting plot looked really cool. It was also another movie adaptation from a novel by legendary SCI-FI whizz, Philip K. Dick. A Scanner Darkly only had a limited release so it wasn't big at the box office, but people slowly knew about it when it finally came to DVD. It was only than when people truly appreciated this great piece of art.

Plot Outline:
Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover cop who is trying to find the ultimate source of a drug called Substance D by converting his house into a drug house and making friends with local junkies Freck (Rory Cochrane), Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) and Luckman (Woody Harrelson) as well as dealer Donna (Winona Rider). Arctor is in such deep cover that his own co-workers don't know his true identity and only know him as "Special Agent Fred". When he's at the office, he wears a scramble suit that alters his voice and gives him a constantly shifting appearance. But in order to maintain his cover, Arctor has to take Substance D, which is so addictive that if you try it just once, you're hooked. Substance D also has fairly serious side effects including hallucinations, paranoid fantasies and brain damage.

The story of the film is based on Philip K. Dick's original novel "A Scanner Darkly". In fact, this is the only movie that stayed almost 100% faithful to the novel with only a few minor adjustments. I found the plot of the film to be very interesting and enticing. Its filled with suspense moments that just come at you and make you think alittle. The film has a story that isn't really clear the first time you see it, but it becomes more and more understandable the more you watch it. The film can also be somewhat trippy because of its creative story and visual aspect. We get introduced to these characters that we learn to coup with because there just living there ordinary lives. Director Richard Linklater really does a nice job of keeping the viewers interested in what their watching. Hes very creative and his directing really shows this. The only thing that kind of bugged me about this film was its length. I really wanted to see it go on alittle longer because I wanted to see the story continue. I'm not sure if author Philip K. Dick wrote a sequel to this movie, but I for one would easily pay to see one happen. I know the ending was pretty conclusive, but I would really pay to see maybe a longer cut of this film simply because I really was sucked into the story.

Keanu Reeves plays as Bob Arctor and he does a really good job here. I think this was a smart decision by the studio to go with someone like Reeves for this part because Reeves really brings out the Bob Arctor that we all want. He does a nice job of portraying the character and I really liked his presence here. Robert Downey Jr. plays as James Barris and he too is great. He gives a very entertaining performance that's easily enjoyable. I think this was a part that was specifically lined towards him. Winona Ryder plays as Donna Hawthorne and shes pretty good. I thought she was another good choice by the studio and she does a good job here too. Woody Harrelson plays as Ernie Luckman and hes just funny. His character is also very entertaining and fun to watch. Rory Cochrane plays as Charles Freck and hes great. He gives a nice performance that I thought looked right for this movie.

The visual look of the film is simply amazing. The film is made using a new animation process called interpolated rotoscoping. This makes the film feel and look like a comic strip come to life. Its not new and has been done before in 2001's Waking Life which director Richard Linklater also directed. There are some who argue that the film's visual style makes the movie seem unreal. They are somewhat right, but I think the film looks great this way.I personally think more movies should look like this. The film itself is free of any film grain. Colors seem somewhat washed out and slightly dark. They aren't vibrant, but they are dam sure pretty to look at. Black levels are strong and the darker scenes easily hold up well. Detail is pretty great with alot of clarity. You cant notice much in terms of detail in a film like this, but it does make the films outline alot sharper.

The soundtrack in A Scanner Darkly is also great. The film has a lively score that's composed by Graham Reynolds. It goes very well with the film's visuals and is used very effectively. It really creates a sense of emotion in the films story. The film also has other music that simply plays during the credits. Even thought they aren't used much during the actual film itself, they are still great to listen to. A Scanner Darkly isn't the type of film that you would expect to have a strong bass and that's true. The film is heavily dialogue driven kind of like a film noire so their isn't much bass. What we do have here is perfectly fine on its own especially for an animated film like this. Its definitely not something Id use to demo off my new surround sound, but its not bad on its own.

A Scanner Darkly is a great film that stays faithful to author Philip K. Dick's novel with the same name. Its got a interesting story that really sucks you in, I just wish it was longer because I didn't want it to end. The cast is great and everyone feels just right in their roles. The visual look of the film is simply amazing and wonderful to look at. I wish more films were made like this. The soundtrack is lively and nice to listen to. I recommend this film to Philip K. Dick fans and to those seeking a great film experience. You might not get it the first time you see it, but it gets better and better with each viewing. Watch it when your high or sober, It doesnt matter because you will enjoy it either way. This is easily my favorite film of all time.

Grade: B


T.S. said...

I haven't seen this work yet, but I do want to. I like Philip K. Dick's writing, and I thought Minority Report was an utterly terrific film – one of my favorites from the decade, actually. I'll stop back by when I do see it and let you know what I thought!

Jaccstev said...

I've never seen this film but based on your review, it sound quite interesting and made me want to give it a try. One great review as always Farzan.

micky said...

good review farzan. ill check this film out as soon as i can. it sounds very interesting