Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko / Donnie Darko Director's Cut

(Richard Kelly, 2001)

Rating: 5/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

Summary
: One of the best Blu-ray releases in ages, Arrow's deluxe treatment of Donnie Darko makes a great film a truly perfect addition to the classic cinema shelf.




‘Donnie Darko’ is a true genre crosser. It’s hard to get the film into any one category aside from perhaps mystery, but that’s more like a fitting description of what Richard Kelly’s film is trying to be. Straddling somewhere between a film noir, teenage angst high school drama, social satire, time travelling sci-fi and a paranoia thriller, ‘Donnie Darko’ certainly is original.

It’s also one of the most impressive film debuts ever by a writer/director (along with Dennis Hopper’s ‘Easy Rider’, Roman Polanski’s ‘Knife in the Water’ and the Orson Welles magnum opus ‘Citizen Kane’). Its central character is Donnie Darko (an edgy Jake Gyllenhaal) who survives an accident that sees a jet engine crash into his bedroom while he’s out sleepwalking.



Donnie has seen visions of a giant bunny rabbit named Frank who has told him that the world is ending within a month. Frank leads Donnie into criminal activity and cryptically teaches him about time travel, while his therapist (Katharine Ross of ‘Butch and Sundance’ fame) ups his medication and he falls for a girl at school (Jena Malone).

Also in the mix is a local motivational speaker (a fantastic Patrick Swayze) houses a dark secret, a deranged old woman known as Grandma Death and the ongoing strains of his family life (played by a great cast including Mary McDonnell and Jake Gyllenhaal’s own real-life sister Maggie).

The cast and the eclectic selection of characters aid ‘Donnie Darko’ immensely, giving the audience something to latch onto while the plot goes off on one tangent after another. This is a film that could’ve so easily have been just a mess, but it pulls itself together with its hole filled by ambiguity that makes for an intriguing watch.

The director’s cut (included in the Blu-ray set) fills in too many of these gaps by adding literal explanations, hindering the film’s successful mystery, making ‘Donnie Darko’ one of the few films to actually be tainted by the ever-interesting and revealing director’s cut treatment.  There’s just too much in it and it outstays its welcome.

The original cut, however, is fantastic if you don’t mind your films being a little abstract and lacking a common through-line. It’s the kind of cinema that you can return to and look for clues, and, conversely, the type of film where you can just acknowledge that it’s well made but ultimately pointless. Whatever your stance, ‘Donnie Darko’ at least deserves a look in (if only for Gary Jules’ invigorated cover of ‘Mad World’ on the soundtrack), and this Blu-ray is a great place to start unravelling the web.



Arrow's Blu-ray set boasts a 4K restoration and a wealth of bonus materials. This film may have come out on home entertainment releases a few times in the past but this is the one to get.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster
     
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both cuts
     
  • Original 5.1 audio
     
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
     
  • Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut
     
  • Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut
     
  • Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director’s Cut
     
  • Brand-new interviews with Richard Kelly and others
     
  • The Goodbye Place, Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films
     
  • The Donnie Darko Production Diary, an archival documentary charting the film’s production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster
     
  • Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly
     
  • Archive interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster
     
  • Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It, They Made Me Do It Too and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary
     
  • Storyboard comparisons
     
  • B-roll footage
     
  • Cunning Visions infomercials
     
  • Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules
     
  • Galleries
     
  • Trailers
     
  • TV spots
     
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing by Nathan Rabin
     
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
     

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