Wow.. just wow. Just finished watching A Scanner Darkly. This movie was on my To Watch List for the longest. Glad I got a chance to check it off. I haven’t written for a while, have just been busy, still am. This film deserves a review though. Now I wish I had read the book before beginning the movie, but there’s always time for that later.
Consider that the novel by the same title was published in 1977. The movie is set in a near future dystopian California. The population is constantly under high tech surveillance by the government, people have become addicted to a new drug by the name Substance D (Slow Death, Death). We have our main character Bob Arctor, who lives a double life as an undercover cop code named Fred. He is tasked with being part of the force investigating the drug ring that is manufacturing, amassing, and distributing the new drug. He gets hooked on the drug.
There is where the mind eff begins, and that is all I can discuss without breaking the experience for you.
Although animated the tone is dark enough for it to still be obviously aimed at adults. This is a film that would have to watch more than once. For one it is told in a somewhat incoherent way and the ending will raise a few questions. You need time to reason and interpret and catch some of the nuances that most likely you missed on your first sitting.
The incoherent way in which the film progresses along with the particular visual style played the perfect role telling a story about drugs. The rotoscope animation (almost looking like a comic book) made the film feel rather trippy, and sets the mood; It was visually mesmerizing, almost over stimulating. This definitely helped me perceive the feelings the characters might have been experiencing, without the usage of the typical cheap camera blurs to mirror grogginess and drug effects. The film stars involved, mainly Robert Downey Jr., played their parts to a T, making the viewer feel like they have met these characters before.
I wish I could discuss more, but I don’t want to take away from the film. One thing I did interesting though was the social commentary on the war on drugs and the satirical way in which the movie (the book) treats the issue. The hopelessness of our society, and the way the government sometimes sacrifices a few for the “benefit” of the majority also played a role in making this movie something you think about rather than just watch and enjoy. When a movie like this would have usually focused on action scenes and explosions, this film tackles mostly existentialism, human hopelessness, and the sacrifices a society makes.