I bought the Director’s Cut DVD of Donnie Darko a long time ago and wanted to *finally* post the review. I didn’t know this movie before I saw the DVD; but it sounded interesting so I shelled out the money.
Donnie Darko is about time travel and parallel universes, and mixes a dark atmosphere and scary imagery with what almost seems like a typical high school flick (but really isn’t).
The Director’s Cut is 128 minutes and thus 20 minutes longer than the original version. The package includes 2 DVD’s, one with the movie itself and one with extras.
Donnie is a teenager with personality problems. He’s seeing a psychiatrist and taking medicine to control these, and except for sleepwalking, everything seems to be fine. Things turn weird when Frank, a creature in a giant bunny suit and a frightening mask, appears in Donnie’s dreams. He lures Donnie outside, and saves his life: In a freak accident, a jet engine crashes into the Darkos’ house, straight into Donnie’s bedroom.
From this point on, Frank is Donnie’s “imaginary friend”. And he begins to order Donnie to conduct increasingly destructive tasks. Donnie, initially just accepting of Frank’s presence, begins to investigate, and finds out that there might be a time-travel connection to his “friend” and the freak accident that almost cost Donnie his life.
Donnie’s school life is also portrayed; giving the movie a kind of 1980s High School movie feel. While Donnie follows Frank’s “orders” and floods the school and burn down the apartment of the local self-help guru, he rebels against the same institutions during his daylight hours; but not by being destructive, but by asking questions about the establishment.
It is hard to describe the plot of the movie without spoiling it. In the end, things are resolved and make sense – problem is, you still don’t know exactly what is the “truth” as told by the movie.
**Donnie Darko** takes classic elements of high school movies, horror movies, and mixes them up with time-travel and parallel world philosophy to create a thought-provoking and stiumlating whole. On the way it asks questions about reality, normality, and authority.
The script is written very well; there is nothing in the entire film that is predictable, and yet it all makes sense. The movie is choreographed very well, the characters are detailed and believable, and brought to live by an extremely good cast. Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko himself does an especially good job; he manages to play the “psychotic” teenager extremely well; believable and never overdone. His mischievous / evil grin speaks volumes; we totally believe the character. But the other cast members are also good. I especially enjoyed Patrick Swayze as the self-help guru with a nasty secret.
There’s a bunch of extras, like a “Making of” and an audio commentary track. These are pretty interesting and a nice bonus, but I felt that they were just “normal extras”. Nothing really knocking me off my feet, but on the other hand it felt satisfying. The audio commentary was especially insightful.
If you enjoy a parallel-world / time-travel movie, horror / suspense movies, or really strange high-school movies, then Donnie Darko is for you. But don’t expect an easy movie. It can be confusing at times. It’ll make you ask: “Huh? What’s this about now?” – Give it time, or watch the movie twice. It becomes all clear in the end. The movie is easily worth its money. The double-DVD is choke full of extras, adding to the value. The only bad feeling I am left with is the “piracy is a crime” trailer at the beginning, that you cannot skip. The old text messages were annoying enough, but this is just too much. In case nobody at the company who sells these noticed: I already spent the money on this DVD, I am not a pirate, and I don’t want to be annoyed like this.
Still, I have to give Donnie Darko two thumbs up.