A Scanner, Darkly (2006)

I bought this DVD and it sat in its cellophane wrapping for about three months before I finally got around to watching it.

Don’t ask me why it took so long – believe me, I feel bad about it now, considering what I was missing out on for all that time.

Set in the not-too-distant future, this is a bleak tale that looks at the downward spiral of society and drug-use in a ‘big-brother’ culture where everything you do is monitored.

The original novel by Philip K. Dick, who also wrote the book that inspired Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, was inspired by Dick’s own experiences with drugs and the deaths of some of his friends by narcotic abuse.

The plot revolves around undercover cop Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) who has developed a sinister split personality named Fred because of his addiction to a drug known as Substance D.

We follow Bob as he tries to uncover the dealers behind the drug, whilst battling his own fractured psyche.

Arctor also complicates things further by falling in love with Donna (Winona Ryder), a drug dealer with whom he hopes to find the source of Substance D and how exactly it is being supplied to the public.

That’s the main plot anyway, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll find it the least interesting part of the film. The real gems come from the supporting characters, played marvellously by Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane.

To be honest, the only reason I originally bought this film was because it had Rory Cochrane in it. I love this man but his aversion to mainstream films means he’s not always easy to find when looking for films to watch.

Thankfully, he gets plenty of screen time to be wonderfully weird here, and fits in nicely with the eccentric Downey, Jr and Harrelson as they out-act the two mains actors off the screen.

The film stands out against typical cinema fare by being a live-action film that has then been animated.

Using techniques from his previous work, Waking Life, Linklater chose to overlay animation on top of the actual shots, giving him far more creative freedom without the need of special effects.

The film is released this year and hopefully will re-introduce some of Dick’s great works to our screen; one of which, The Man in the High Castle, won the 1963 Hugo Award. His sci-fi classics are renowned for their insightful journeys into modern society and this one is no exception.

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