A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Genre: Animation Drama Mystery Sci-Fi Thriller
Starring: Keanu Reeves (The Matrix; Speed), Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice; Heathers)
Directed By: Richard Linklater (Waking Life; Dazed and Confused)
Overview: In this adaptation of author Philip K. Dick's (Blade Runner; Minority Report) novel, we follow an undercover police office who's next drug-busting assignment is to monitor his own roomates.
Acting: I was talking to a friend about Keanu Reeves. "Is he good in this one?" he asked. I realized then that Keanu is no longer a bad actor. He had a rough patch in the earlier days there, and people said that he was just another pretty Ashton Kutcher kind of face, but films like Constantine and The Devil's Advocate have long ago convinced me of his talent. I'm not saying Oscar-winning performances here, but everyone in this is fantastic, and Linklater's way of directing them just a touch over the top without going overboard was bang on perfect. Downey Jr. and Harrelson are terrific, really.
Cinematography: Say what you will about Rotoscoping, fine, hell, call it tracing. Nonetheless, this film chooses to go a far more subdued route compared to the animation in A Walking Life, less distracting. Yes, the moments that are 'special effect', like the hallucinations or those fancy scramble suits are creative applications, but that's about it. No great big spaceships, no crazy Bruckheimer explosions, just the future with an edge. If you hated it before, you'll still hate it here, but the rest of you will appreciate a film that went somewhere artsy when it didn't have to.
Script: I've said it a few times now, and I'll say it again: films that come from best-selling novels tend to be really well written, thoroughly (or appropriately cloudily) explained, and may even keep their rich characters (if they translate well). The friend I saw this with who HAD read it told us it stayed true to the original. The fact that this haunting look at a drug-addled future includes hilarious moments of paranoid mass delusions among the characters makes this film go in a direction that's not always bleak and dark. Those funny moments might even serve to let us know why the fight is worth fighting: humour is important in life, yet these people don't see the humour in their own lives.
Plot: I have no problem being the dissenting vote here. Having heard and read reviews of this film with such comments as 'not a tour de force but good...' and 'I walked out after 15 minutes', again makes me realize how important it is for a fan to stay true to his beliefs. Minority Report, Blade Runner, these are great stories told by a great short story writer and novelist. This is NO exception. For people to go on about how they hated this story, clearly do not understand the essence that is Phillip K. Dick. I suppose if you aren't into him, sci-fi, or cyber-punk or you're in no way a cynic, then you won't like this all that much, but who sees movies they know they're going to hate?! I didn't see The Break-Up because I know I'll hate it. Don't do that, idjit. As for this one: solid story, great character development and one hell of a terrific ending.
Mood: Theme: Paranoia. The methods are various. Often comedic, we catch a glimpse of how users of the drug 'D' react, and with paranoia being the primary side-effect, there's a healthy dose of it going around. I wished I'd seen and been made to feel what people do when on the drug, rather than merely the unpleasant side-effects, and had there been less humour, I would have enjoyed the bleak future i was expecting, but that's expectation versus reality. All told this was immersive and not simply because of the look of it all. To find so many funny moments was a neat angle.
Overall Rating: 90% (Scan This Clearly)
Aftertaste: Philip K. Dick, why did you have to go away? Where else can we find cynical shut-in authors who go around writing sci-fi about bleak futures that are tragically fast approaching? You DO know he wrote Total Recall right? I found that a little surprising as well. Either way, looking forward to more cyberpunk in my future, it's just so good!
A friend dared me to write the review without using the words 'cautionary tale'. I guess that makes him the loser, huh!?