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6 April 2011

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

You will remember a while back that I talked a bit about Philip K Dick and a collection of short stories I'd read by him. Well, as if my magic, he's back! This time, I've been watching a film version of his novel A Scanner Darkly.

Now, be warned that this is not your typical Philip K Dick novel. This is not sci-fi à la Total Recall or Bladerunner; A Scanner Darkly is a touching tribute to Phil's friends who have been damaged by, or lost to drugs over the years. And bloody hell... there's been a lot of them!

I quite like the DVD cover; It's arty in a Photoshop comic book style. And low and behold, the film opens in the same style. Surely not, I was thinking. But, yes, the whole film is done like this. It's a bit odd and takes a while to get used to, but I have to admit that it does add to the overall surreal druggy atmosphere. And it does allow some unique opportunities for the film makers to realise some of Phil's more outlandish ideas; Take the ever-moving disguise suits... I didn't have a clue how they'd do that... but the end results are pretty good!

The plot itself is classic Phil with twists and turns that keep you guessing all the way through to the end. At the heart of it is Keanu Reeves who gets sent undercover to try and infiltrate a drugs ring. He's tasked with unearthing the suppliers of a new drug called 'D'. Only, he ends up getting hooked on the drug himself and it isn't long before he's losing his grip on reality. At one point we even have psychotic Keanu monitoring himself on CCTV. Only Phil could have thought of that!

There's a lot of humour in this story. Most of it comes from the nonsense situations that the addled stars find themselves in. And as is the way with drugs, most of it is in the mind. Paranoia and confusion are never far away. You can tell that Phil had a lot of fun putting it all together. The cast are great. Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Rory Cochrane do a fantastic job. And whilst it's all arty graphics, you know it's them underneath and this definitely adds another dimension.

One thing that I would say is that there's a hell of a lot of dialogue in this film... especially Downey Jr. Jesus, at times I think he was breathing through his ears to get his words out!

So... I enjoyed the film... but I don't think it'll be something that I'll go out of my way to watch again. The film rightfully concentrates on Keanu as the main character, but I seem to remember that the book also tells you a lot more about his friends... especially at the end. The film doesn't really make much of the fact that they're casualities too, which I think misses a large part of why Phil wrote the book in the first place. I guess it's implied...

On the Triple-B I'm going to give A Scanner Darkly a funny, but ultimately sad 6. Just say no Kids!

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