Quite often, movies that were quirky, unusual flavours-of-the-month have been quietly forgotten after 15 years, and when you do come across them again, you wonder what all the fuss was about. Not so with Donnie Darko, which retains both its cult and mainstream appeal, with enough love that it recently got a small cinema re-release and now Arrow Video have come up with one hell of a Blu-ray package for it.
Not only do you get the film in both its Theatrical and Director’s Cut form, but they’re based on a brand new 4K restoration supervised by Richard Kelly (although by necessity it’s only 2K resolution on the Blu-ray), and it comes with an almost ridiculous amount of special features both old and new.
The film of course remains the highlight, and it’s just as fascinating, mysterious and intriguing as it was when it was first released in 2001. It’s still like a puzzle where no matter how many times you rearrange the pieces, it never quite fits, although where the full solution always feels like it’s in sight.
Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a troubled young man in therapy, who narrowly escapes a bizarre accident where a plane engine crashes through his bedroom. He survived because he was apparently sleepwalking and then up on a golf course, instead of being crushed to death. He begins to feel that perhaps there’s more to this than a single lucky escape, especially when starts being plagued by visions of a six-foot tall rabbit called Frank, sees strange water-like tendrils stretching out in front of people, and discovers a local woman known as Grandma Death wrote a book that seems to suggest a tangent universe has been formed with Donnie at the centre of it.
The film is a bizarre mix of philosophy, metaphysics, physics, supernatural elements, arbitrary rules and strangeness. However, it holds together largely due to the fact you always trust there’s a strong controlling mind at work, in this case first time filmmaker and screenwriter Richard Kelly. (Rather unexpectedly he’s only made two movies since, the far less well received Southland Tale and The Box_. Even if you’ve learned the text of Grandma Death’s ‘Philosophy of Time Travel’, there are still endless questions about what’s going on, how aware people are of things, and ultimately how the tangent universe might have been created and why it works in the way it does. Or is it still possible that Donnie is just mentally ill?
However, I expect you’ve seen the movie, and if you like it, this is a great release for you. The movie looks great with its new restoration and there’s more than enough to keep you interested in the special features. For example, alongside a lot of good archive documentaries and footage, there’s a new 90-minute documentary that goes deep into how the movie came to be – after all, getting this sort of film funded isn’t easy – the production process and through to its reception. It features new interviews with Richard Kelly and many other involved.
Alongside that are plenty of audio commentaries, trailer, deleted scenes, music videos and pretty much everything else a Donnie Darko fan could want. It’s an excellent release and one it’s well worth having in your collection.
Overall Verdict: A great, feature-packed re-release for a quirky movie that still intrigues 15-years on.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac