This unclassifiable but stunningly original film obliterates the walls between teen comedy, science fiction, family drama, horror, and cultural satire–and remains wildly entertaining throughout. Jake Gyllenhaal (October Sky) stars as Donnie, a borderline-schizophrenic adolescent for whom there is no difference between the signs and wonders of reality (a plane crash that devastates his house) and hallucination (a man-sized, reptilian rabbit who talks to him). Obsessed with the science of time travel and acutely aware of the world around him, Donnie is isolated by his powers of analysis and the apocalyptic visions that no one else seems to share. The debut feature of writer-director Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko is a shattering, hypnotic work that sets its own terms and gambles–rightfully so, as it turns out–that a viewer will stay aboard for the full ride.

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2001
Release Date: June 26, 2011
Run time: 113 minutes
Rating: R

Audio: DTS HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Disc Spec: 2 BD / 2 DVD
Region: A

‘Donnie Darko’ is one of those films that caught me by surprise. I had to view the film twice to get a better understanding of what was going on. ‘Donnie Darko’ is a very deep and complex film that becomes much more enjoyable with each viewing. The film had a very limited theatrical release with a $4.1 million dollar worldwide theatrical gross. This film would go on to become an even bigger cult hit once it hit the DVD format.

The Blu-ray offers ‘Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut’ takes the audience down the rabbit hole on a long, strange trip that alternately becomes, surreal, comic, dramatic and just plain scary. Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) suffers from hallucinations and takes medication to help control his “visions”. One night after taking his medication he has an encounter with a large, rancid, evil looking six foot tall rabbit who informs him that the world is going to end. “Frank” (as he calls his imaginary friend) takes him briefly into the future disappearing and reappearing throughout the film. Evidently only Donnie can stop it.

Having seen both the director’s and theatrical cuts, I do not think that the director’s cut is necessarily a better film just different. Visually stunning and with an outstanding cast, inscrutable script “Donnie Darko” was just different enough to not score with audiences post-9/11. That’s tragic as this totally original film makes an impression whether you’re watching the original version or the director’s cut of the film.

The film moves from fantasy to reality with no clear indication as to whether or not Donnie’s “visions” are real or if everything is in his imagination. Using a soundtrack made up of 80′s staples (“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears, “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS among many other titles), director/writer Richard Kelly creates a bizarre satire of suburbia and surreal science fiction drama. Kelly’s original version of the film featured some different songs and was shorter (and features new sequences and optical effects not in the 2001 release) but also seemed more open to interpretation. The allegorical references sprinkled throughout the film along with the bizarre dream sequences made the original film both fascinating and plain weird.

Movie Quality: 8/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 2:35:1 aspect ratio. This is a film that will never look crystal clear no matter what enhancement is done to the image. Otherwise, FOX has done a great job with this film on Blu-ray. Colors are muted providing a gauzy look with softer looking blacks. The image has a muddy look. Any flaws or issues that one may think that this print provides are not an issue, but more as to how the film was originally produced. This is a darker film that retains this aspect throughout the film. Fans will be happy with the image transfer as it does a great job in providing the best video transfer of the film yet.
Print Quality: 9/10

The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA l0ssless 5.1 mix. ‘Donnie Darko’ is a dialogue centric film that is the main focus. For those going in expecting an intense and complex audio experience you might be a little disappointed. There are special effects and the soundtrack peer through the rears providing some panning effects. It is done so well that you feel as a part of the experience. While this is not a bombastic soundtrack, it is well executed. I did have a few issues with the dialogue being soft in a few spots, but overall it is well done.
Print Quality: 9/10

Special Features

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Richard Kelly and star Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Feature Length Cast and Crew Audio Commentary
  • Feature Length Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith
  • Production Diary with optional commentary with Cinematographer Steven Poster
  • “They Made Me Do It – The Cult of Donnie Darko”
  • From Storyboard to Screen
  • “#1 Fan: A Darkomentary”
  • Theatrical Trailer

Special Features: 9/10

Final Thoughts

You can witness both Kelly’s theatrical and director’s cut in high definition. The meaning of Kelly’s film is still, ultimately, open to debate and while the film may be a bit less ambiguous than the first theatrical cut, its also got its fair share of great moments as well. I highly recommend this as a rental for newcomers and a purchase for fans.
Overall Rating: 8/10