A Scanner Darkly

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/08/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Engaging, beautifully animated sci-fi thriller with superb performances and a script that manages to be funny, disturbing and thought-provoking all at once.

What's it all about?
Set seven years in the future, A Scanner Darkly stars Keanu Reeves as Bob Arctor, a futuristic narcotics officer who is so far undercover that he's actually investigating himself. This is because he wears a special suit that scrambles his appearance, so that even his own cop colleagues don't know who he is.

Arctor's double-life as a drug dealer and user brings him into contact with fellow addicts James (Robert Downey Jnr), Ernie (Woody Harrelson), Charles (Rory Cochrane) and Donna (Winona Ryder), who spend their days having nonsensical discussions and ripping each other off. Their drug of choice is the reality-altering Substance D and Bob eventually realises that he has to try and get clean for the sake of his own sanity.

The Good
Director Richard Linklater uses the same rotoscoping animation technique that he pioneered with Waking Life, where the scenes are shot using real actors and then painstakingly animated afterwards. The constantly shifting, colourful imagery is perfectly suited to the trippy material, particularly when rendering Bob's scramble-suit and Charles' bug-based hallucinations.

The performances are excellent: Reeves is much more animated than usual (sorry) and it's great to (sort of) see Winona Ryder in a decent part again. The supporting cast are equally good but Robert Downey Jnr almost steals the entire film with his twitchy, back-stabbing chatterbox.

The Great
Dick fans won't be disappointed as the film is remarkably faithful to the 1977 novel, which, like Blade Runner, seems shockingly ahead of its time.

The script is excellent, seamlessly blending stoner humour with an intriguing sci-fi premise and subtle, thought-provoking commentary on both the nature of addiction and the role of propaganda in politics.

Worth seeing?
A thoroughly enjoyable, frequently hilarious and occasionally disturbing sci-fi thriller, this is like nothing else you'll see this year. Highly recommended.

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A Scanner Darkly
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Content updated: 23/11/2019 15:30

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