Genre(s): Drama, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Arrow Video | R – 113 min. / 133 min. – $49.95 | April 18, 2017
Date Published: 05/08/2017 | Author: The Movieman
THE MOVIE — 4.25/5
Over the course of the 16 years since its release, Donnie Darko has only cultivated a larger cult following. The film never really wildly impressed me when I saw it several years back and I don’t recall being overly enthused over the “Director’s Cut” but seeing this again the other day, I found it thoroughly engaging from the 1980s time period, music and highly regarded cast.
Plot: The story focuses on awkward teenager Donnie Darko (JAKE GYLLENHAAL) who has a seemingly idyllic All-American family: dad Eddie (HOLMES OSBORNE), mom Rose (MARY MCDONNELL), older sister Elizabeth (MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL) and younger sister Samantha (DAVEIGH CHASE). Donnie has infinity for sleepwalking as well as has an imaginary friend named Frank (JAMES DUVAL) who dresses up like a demonic rabbit.
During one of his sleepwalks, a jet engine mysteriously falls from the sky hitting his bedroom. Surviving the event, Donnie is a bit of a star at his high school where you have an eclectic myriad of characters from the overly religious gym instructor (BETH GRANT), a dedicated English teacher (DREW BARRYMORE who also produced), her boyfriend and science teacher (NOAH WHYLE) and various classmates. He also attracts the attention of new girl in school Gretchen Ross (JENA MALONE). Amongst these characters, there’s also local celebrity and motivational speaker, Jim Cunningham (PATRICK SWAYZE).
Donnie begins seeing some unusual things like weird clear worm sprouting out of people’s chests outlaying their path in life; starts investigating the possibilities of time travel; both ideas coming from the mind of a former teacher now town kook. It’s rather difficult to explain what happens (and why) but needless to say, it is mind-twisting.
First, the cast is first class. Jake Gyllenhaal displays some amazing talent in carrying what could be a too dark or too weird character that he’s not all that likeable but instead you’re right along in his path (so to speak); Mary McDonnell, who probably was deserving of a Supporting Actress notice, was superb as a genuinely concerned mother; in a stroke of brilliance, Maggie Gyllenhaal portrays the typical snotty older sister; and Jena Malone probably has her best role in her career though she might be better remembered for what she did in 2016’s Neon Demon.
But probably the most notable performance comes from the late Patrick Swayze who absolutely plays against character as a sleezy/creepy motivational speaker with a dark secret that’s only exposed during one of Donnie’s extracurricular excursions. Though as I said McDonnell deserved recognition, so did Swayze in a quite brief role but made the bigger impression compared with the other supporting roles.
Written and directed by Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko was a homerun for the then young filmmaker and since he hasn’t really returned to form from poor showings that included The Box and Southland Tales, the latter I could give a little more credit being at least unique even if it might’ve been Donnie Darko-lite.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 5.0/5
This 4-disc release (2 BDs, 2 DVDs) comes housed in a sturdy slip case. The Theatrical Version and Director’s Cut are each contained in their own fold out case. Also inside is an 89-page book with essays and production photos, fold-out poster and concept art cards.
Theatrical Cut Disc:
Both of these tracks are solid and thankfully the group track they are all together so it has a more of a party atmosphere while the one with Gyllenhaal is a bit more in control.
Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko (1:25:23; HD) is a new documentary made for this release and contains interviews with writer/director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, director of photography Steven Poster, editor Sam Bauer, composer Michael Edwards, costume designer April Ferry, production designer Alec Hammond and actor James Duval (Frank). This is rather extensive taking viewers through the process of the story from a variety of perspectives. It’s a shame they couldn’t coral other cast members, however.
The Goodbye Place (8:43; SD) – Richard Kelly’s 1996 short film.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (31:54; HD) – There were 20 scenes left on the cutting room floor and have the option to watch with Kelly’s commentary.
Theatrical Trailer (2:28; HD)
Director’s Cut Disc:
The Donnie Darko Production Diary (52:54; SD) – This is a lengthy daily making-of featurette with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage. Includes optional commentary.
Archive Interviews (14:19; SD) includes on-set sound bites with Jake Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osbourne, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Duval, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore (Actor/Executive Producer), Noah Wyle, Katharine Ross, Richard Kelly (Writer/Director), Sean McKittrick (Producer), Nancy Juvonen (Producer), Hunt Lowry (Executive Producer), Casey La Scala (Executive Producer) and Steven Poster (Director of Photography).
They Made Me Do It (4:48; SD) and They Made Me Do It Too (30:17; SD) are features in which artists had only a set amount of time to create a piece of work on canvas inspired by the film. The second one is a video version.
#1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13:18; SD) is the winner from a competition held on the Donnie Darko website.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
|Donnie Darko arrives on Blu-ray this time from Arrow Video. The film is presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio and shown with a 1080p high-definition transfer culled from the original 35mm camera negative and scanned in 4K resolution. It looks clean, free of any dust marks, artifacts, aliasing or other flaws though, albeit only from memory, the original Fox Blu-rays looked rather clean as well. Film grading was done under the supervision of Richard Kelly and frankly, it looks pretty damn good with some pops of colors amongst the darker tone of the story.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
|The disc has been given both 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks that likely are identical from the original Blu-ray releases. Even so, they do sound decent providing crisp and clear dialogue levels and some modest depth in some scenes such as the fall of the jet engine as well as a haunting score and wonderful 1980s soundtrack.
OVERALL – 4.5/5
|Overall, not going out on a limb to say that Donnie Darko is a transformative kind of movie, one that even so many years later still holds up so well and features tremendous performances from most involved (only one that wasn’t as Drew Barrymore whose character didn’t quite connect for me). The film showcases Richard Kelly’s talent and hopefully he sees a Shyamalan-like resurgence in the future.
This Blu-ray released through Arrow Video is absolutely fantastic featuring excellent video and audio transfers and a plethora of bonus material that any fan will love (and it thankfully ported over, from what I can tell), most if not all the features from previous releases.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.