Movie Review: A Scanner Darkly

One of the most amazing movies I've seen this year (I've been trying to list all the movies I've watched on my blog sidebar, but somehow missed this one) was A Scanner Darkly (Wikipedia, official site).

A Scanner Darkly is a mystery/thriller/science fiction done in a style similar to a graphic novel, starring Keanu Reaves, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder. It's almost an indie film (despite the big names), set in a near-future California, with subversive humour and an interesting storyline featuring an undercover agent sent to spy on himself...

But the biggest attraction is that it's closely based on a story by Phillip K. Dick. Dick has had big movies based on his works before (Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Paycheck), but this one captures more of his unique style. The movie is apparently very true to the book and has Dick's unsettling and yet strangely believable quality (and I reckon doing special effects would be a lot cheaper using the film's preferred visual feel).

Without giving too much away, the story centres around a character "Bob" who works undercover for a "Big Brother"-type organisation tracking down a dangerous drug. While at the office, he wears a shape-shifting suit so no-one knows who he is (this introduces the notion that any one of his varied friends may also work for the organisation). Being undercover, he poses as a drug user - but this eventually attracts attention from the organisation, who sends him to spy on himself!

Add to this the fact that the drug Bob is on is altering his perception, and you have the setting for a tragic thriller (perhaps in the spirit of V for Vendetta or The 12 Monkeys), that uses future science in interesting ways, but is a personal and moral story too. Wow!

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and rate it 10 out of 12.

One strange thing. it's rated "R", and I can't quite figure out why...perhaps I'm desensitised to the types of images it portrays (especially seeing The Bourne Ultimatum was rated "PG", the same as The Simpsons Movie). Hmmm...

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