Donnie Darko – Review (Arrow Video Limited Edition Blu-ray)
Back in 2001, I watched a movie that stuck with me for years. That film was Donnie Darko. A time travelling sci-fi flick with elements of comedy, drama and horror. (Oddly enough, Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly also directed one of the worst films I have ever seen (Southland Tales).)
The reason Donnie Darko stuck with me and not Southland Tales, is that it was a fantastic film that left you with a lot of questions and just when you think you had the movie figured out, another question will pop up. Most of these questions have been answered in the Director’s Cut release, which until this review, I never did see.
From what I’ve read online, there seems to be a divided fan base on which version they prefer. Some prefer the more open-ended Theatrical release and others like the Director’s Cut due to it making the film a bit easier to follow, yet still leaving a lot of questions up in the air. Honestly, either Cut is brilliant.
I don’t want to go into the specifics of the story for Donnie Darko as I feel it has already been dissected and discussed by several other smarter people than me, so I have nothing to add. My unpaid job is to tell you whether you should see it/buy it or not and that I can quickly answer with a resounding YES!
Be it the intriguing story, the acting or the amazing soundtrack that propels the film forward, with some great songs that make certain scenes all the more better, everything is top notch in Donnie Darko. Who can forget the school scene with Head over Heels by Tears for Fears playing or the ending with Mad World blaring through your speakers? It’s all interesting stuff that sticks with you.
As for the downside of my review, I can’t think of anything negative to say about Donnie Darko. Anything I could think up (say some shoddy CGI for example) is extreme nitpicking and this movie doesn’t deserve that type of critiquing (Southland Tales on the other hand? Ugh…). What it does deserve is to be watched over and over again.
There are a bunch of different copies of the film out there to watch it on, but throw all of those away as Arrow Video has provided the end all be all release. I can’t stress enough how fantastic this box set is; I want to make sweet love to it. Coming in a hard box, with two digipacks, one that houses the theatrical on Blu-ray and DVD, another that has the Director’s on Blu-ray/DVD and finally a book with essays and interviews. Each digipack also has a treat in store for the buyer. The theatrical has the poster, and the Director’s Cut has an envelope filled with postcards featuring Donnie Darko artwork. That’s just the physical features, but what about the digital features.
The newest feature and the one that everyone will want to check out is the new feature-length documentary on the theatrical disc. Coming in an 1 hour and 25 minutes, Deus Ex Machina — The Philosophy of Donnie Darko features interviews with cast and crew providing a lot of details on the production. The rest of the special features have been available on previous releases, but having it all in one package is a truly “cellar door” thing.
As for the video transfer, Arrow Video provides a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, along with a scan of the 35mm digital intermediate element for the sections that are unique to the Director’s Cut. Each cut has the film looking the best it has ever looked, keeping true to the overall look of the movie. Viewers may baulk at some of the heavy grain and lack of sharpness in certain scenes, but to me, this is how the movie was meant to look, and for that, Arrow Video has succeeded wonderfully. The same can be said for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which has some fun with the rear channels whenever Frank pops up onscreen.
Even if you own Donnie Darko on previous versions, you still should buy the Donnie Darko set from Arrow Video. It is that great of a release. The work that was put into making this set look as amazing as it is, can be felt throughout every aspect of the box set. Donnie Darko is a film that will stick with you for many, many years and this Blu-ray release will stay front and centre in your collection for many more years.
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) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of both cuts
Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray)
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
Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko, a brand-new documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures on the making of Donnie Darko, containing interviews with writer-director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, director of photography Steven Poster,
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
Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It, They Made Me Do It Too and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary
Cunning Visions infomercials
Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules
Exclusive collector’s book containing new writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham, an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly, introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional material
Limited edition packaging featuring new artwork by Candice Tripp
DISCS: 4 (2 Blu-ray, 2 DVD)
RUN-TIME: 113 min, 133 min ASPECT RATIO: 2.35:1 RESOLUTION: 1080p AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 LANGUAGE: English SUBTITLES: English SDH REGION: A RATING: R PRODUCTION DATE: 2001 RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
Fifteen years before Stranger Things, Richard Kelly set the template and the high-water mark with his debut feature, Donnie Darko. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium.
Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank’s maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum.
Described by its director as ”The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick”, Donnie Darko combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast pre-stardom Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, heartthrob Patrick Swayze, former child star Drew Barrymore, Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell and Katharine Ross, and ER star Noah Wyle and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. This brand-new 4K restoration, carried out exclusively for this release by Arrow Films, allows a modern classic to finally receive the home video treatment it deserves.