In the tradition of Urban Legends and Final Destination, Donnie Darko is an edgy, psychological thriller about a suburban teen coming face-to-face wit his dark destiny. Jake Gyllenhaal leads a star-filled cast (including ... more »Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Jena M« less
"Any form of media that makes you think has succeeded in what it set out to do.Donnie Darko is a film that succeeds on every conceivable level. The script is original and entirely unpredictable. There isn't a single bit of action or dialogue, not one frame that can be anticipated. The characters, too, are refreshingly well-conceived and highly unique. And it's a treat to see actors we know well (Drew Barrymore, who also produced, and Noah Wyle) stretch well beyond our usual expectations. There is great humor in this film as well as great sorrow. And, ultimately, it's impossible to say if the entire scenario takes place within the dreams of a brilliant but possibly schizophrenic young man or if, as he so desperately wishes, he has, through physics, managed to reverse time.Jake Gyllenhaal gives a stunning performance as Donnie. Even his body language--incurving shoulders, questioning eyes, uncertain smiles--reveal a vast, searching intelligence. Mary McDonnell gives yet another in a roster of thoughtful portrayals--this time as the despairing mother of brilliant and troubled Donnie, simultaneously loving and hating him for being emotionally beyond her reach. And Jena Mallone is just wonderful, one of the truest, most authentic young actors around today.This is filmmaking at its best--an adventure for the mind--not to be missed.
Most highly recommended."
A must-have DVD
pm444 | Okemos, MI USA | 02/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I missed this film in its theatrical release (apparently it received limited distribution), but since it requires at least two viewings, it's well-suited for DVD. It's difficult to describe the story or even characterize it by genre, which shows how original the film is. Simply put, it's about time travel, but it's about a lot more than that, too. The acting is consistently outstanding, with a list of well-known names in the cast, along with less familiar ones. Jake Gyllenhaal gives an amazing performance that is so convincing, you forget that he is acting; he IS Donnie Darko. While the story is mainly told through his eyes, the other characters are surprisingly sympathetic as well. This is not an easy feat for a script to accomplish, especially when the viewer must focus so much attention on every event. It would have been easy to create a one-dimensional hero and a bunch of villains, but writer/director Richard Kelly doesn't take the easy way out. Instead, we get a highly intelligent and challenging film that engages us as much as it baffles us, that injects enough humor to keep us from stress-overload, and most importantly, makes us want to watch it again and again, even after we know what's going on. In this sense, "Donnie Darko" succeeds where other films have fallen short: for example, I enjoyed the complexities of "Memento", but I was not able to identify or even care very much about any of the characters. The same was true of "The Usual Suspects". Both are excellent films, but I viewed both from a distance, more analytically than emotionally. I did not view "Donnie Darko" from a distance. I was drawn into the world that it creates, and enjoyed it enough to return more than once. A brilliant first film from Richard Kelly, who has set a very high standard for himself.The DVD does full justice to this fine movie. The video and audio are excellent, and the extra features are quite thorough. I particularly enjoyed the commentary by Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal, which I listened to the second time I watched the film. They do a great job of helping the viewer to connect the dots. They also include just enough of the usual "behind the scenes" banter to keep the commentary from becoming too academic. This DVD would definitely be included in any "desert island" list that I would ever compile. Strongly recommended!"
"Donnie Darko" A Real Gem
Robert Kaercher | Chicago, IL | 01/14/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was a very pleasant surprise.When this was initially released in theaters, I didn't quite know what to make of the trailers. It appeared to be a movie about some kid haunted by a scary-looking giant bunny, sort of a demented "Harvey" as though directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I was intrigued. Unfortunately, I never got around to going to see it in a theater, so when I saw it at my local video store, I snatched it up, having very little idea of what to expect.What I saw was a solidly entertaining, thought-provoking, unique and thoroughly original sci-fi time travel tale with very real and believable human conflict (rare for a science fiction flick). Jake Gyllenhaal (playing the film's title character)-an unusually gifted actor for his age who consistently demonstrates a sense of truthfulness about his work (unlike so many other young actors of his generation, who seem mostly to be more concerned with looking cool and hip than with honing their craft)-gives a great performance, and is sure to have a wonderful future ahead of him. Virtually the entire cast is an impressive veteran ensemble, all of whom deliver wonderful performances: Holmes Osborne and Mary McDonnell as Gyllenhaal's parents, alternately worried and amused by their son's eccentric behavior; Katharine Ross (yes THAT Katharine Ross, of such `60s classics as "The Graduate" and "Butch and Sundance," who has unfortunately been all too absent from films since that time) as Gyllenhaal's concerned psychiatrist; Noah Wyle and Drew Barrymore (also the film's executive producer) are perfect as two young liberally minded high school teachers, embattled by a hypersensitive school bureaucracy; and Rachel Winfree gives a flawless performance as a neurotic high school teacher who tries so desperately to teach her students the difference between "love" and "fear" on the "lifeline." Jena Malone as Gyllenhaal's love interest gives a very sensitive and well-crafted performance; she forces nothing, and like Gyllenhaal, she should also have quite a career ahead of her. The most ingenious stroke of casting in this movie, however, is perennial `80s "Dirty Dancing" icon Patrick Swayze as a cheeseball motivational speaker (a la "Up With People"). Definitely his finest performance since "Road House" (har, har). But the greatest kudos must go to writer-director Richard Kelly (not to be confused with "Ally McBeal" creator Richard E. Kelly). It is not easy to craft a sci-fi tale that actually has a believable and compelling element of genuine human drama (George Lucas' stunted and awkward dialogue in his most recent "Star Wars" epic and the forced, saccharine emotions of M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" spring to mind), but Kelly manages to pull it off. This movie is also part satire, too, offering relevant social commentary without being preachy or obvious. This movie will surely go on to become a cult classic."
Awesome Movie - Transfer to Blu-Ray Not So Good.
MGB | California, USA | 12/02/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"First I would like to say that this review is more targeted at the Blu-Ray transfer of this movie. When I first found out this movie was available on Blu-Ray I had to have it since it's one of my favorite movies. I already owned the DVD, and was happy with the quality of the video on my up-converting DVD player. I figured the Blu-Ray would have to look better since it advertised as HD 1080p. Unfortunately that was not the case; in fact the DVD looks better up-converted than the Blu-Ray does. How does that happen? It appears the studio did very little to prepare this film for Blu-Ray. If anything they made it worse by trying to doctor it up rather than spend the money to re-master it properly. The movie has a lot of dark scenes which are almost all grainy and not very detailed. The light scenes are not as noticeable but you can still see it unless you're sitting a good distance from your TV. I guess the point I'm trying to make would be to hang on to your DVD until they fix the Blu-Ray transfer. At the new price it's worth buying if you don't already have the DVD, but don't "up grade" to this from your DVD."
Learning to Live
Theresa Williams | USA | 08/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is about learning to live. Donnie Darko is a troubled 15 year old who thinks life is absurd and meaningless because, in the end, everyone dies alone.
Set in the Fall of 1988, the movie is about personal transformation and how through your own personal transformation you can change the world. The 1988 Presidential election serves as a handy backdrop for the despair caused by alienation and apathy. The country has emerged from 8 years of conservatism under Ronald Reagan and has a choice to make. This larger sense of place echoes within the community, where conservative values are prominent and people fear change. The only kind of "change" people accept comes from the self-help guru who spouts shallow epithets; whereas real works about transformation and change are shunned and called "pornographic," such as Graham Greene's short story which says, in part: "It was as though this plan had been with him all his life, pondered through the seasons, now in his fifteenth year crystallised with the pain of puberty."
This could not be a better description of the angst of adolescence and of Donnie Darko himself, now in his 15th year, who is searching for the "plan" he needs to accept the yin and yang of existence: that destruction and creation work together to create change.
Donnie is the only student in the class who understands the Greene story. When called upon by his teacher he says the story is saying that "destruction is a form of creation. So the fact that they burn the money is..,.ironic. They just want to see what happens when they tear the world apart. They want to change things."
But how does one find transformation in a world that seems to offer only diminished possibilities? In a world that believes acquisition leads to happiness? What Donnie ultimately discovers--which is why he laughs and smiles at the end of the movie--is that meaning is found through your creative engagement with life and through the mark you leave on the world.
The song "Mad World" truly encapsulates the thematic concerns of the movie beautifully. The music video, included as a special feature, is valuable in itself. Highly recommended movie."