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A movie directed by Richard Linklater

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When a scanner sees only darkly, the way I do, then we're cursed

  • Nov 2, 2008
  • by
To fully understand the movie, you'd have to read the book first. But to fully appreciate the movie, its best to have not read the book and have an open mind to the differences.

The plot: Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane) is covered in aphids. At least he thinks so. Freck hangs out with Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) and Luckman (Woody Harrelson) and Bob Arctor's girlfriend Donna (Winona Ryder).

What Bob's roommates don't know is that there is more to Bob than his trivial job and his addiction. Bob Arctor is a narc called Fred (both played by Keanu Reeves), working for the Narcotics Division undercover. Whenever Fred enters the station to report, he wears a "scramble suit", so that he can't be identified. All narcotics officers wear them. When Fred is assigned to stake out his own identity in the drug world - Bob Arctor - things begin to fall apart for him.

At first, Fred finds it ironic that he is staking out himself, but as the drug corrodes his brain, literally splitting the hemispheres apart, Bob/Fred separate and reality twists into shivering fibers of uncertainty. Barris and Luckman start to behave strangely.

What will happen to Bob/Fred if he doesn't stop using Substance D? Why is Donna so standoffish if she likes Bob as much as she claims to? How deep can Bob/Fred go before something snaps inside his head? Or has it snapped already?

'A Scanner Darkly' is classic the author Philip K. Dick. In his book, P.K.D. vividly paints the funnier antics of substance abuse, and the tragedies that follow. The conversations between the men when they are high are both pathetic and hilarious. It's pretty obvious the author had some experience walking the pretty path of flowering hallucinations.

In the movie, the dialogue fails a bit from P.K.D.'s formula. It's harsher rather than poetic, as if to be more easily understood. There's also limited time to bring the viewer into the world P.K.D. painted in the book.

A highpoint of the movie is the way it was filmed with real actors and then painted over to appear animated. This worked extremely good to portray the "scramble suits". It also lends itself to the surreal world-view of the addicted. There's plenty of deception, and an ending that will leave you a bit surprised.

Overall, even if you've read the book and loved it, give the movie a try. My recommendation is to rent before buying. Enjoy!
A Scanner Darkly

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More A Scanner Darkly reviews
review by . January 21, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The Cast
WARNING: This review contains spoilers!   Based upon what may be Philip K. Dick's most personal novel, the film A Scanner Darkly is an awe-inspiring "science fiction" film directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused and Waking Life). Linklater, who also wrote the screenplay, has done a remarkable job in staying as close as possible to Philip K. Dick's original story. In fact, out of all of the many films adapted or inspired by his work, A Scanner Darkly may be the most faithful. …
review by . March 07, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Interesting story and decent interpretation      Cons: Predictable and the acting was only so-so      The Bottom Line: It is ultimately predictable but the strength of the story (once you get into it) makes the predictability just a minor nuisance.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      A Scanner Darkly a Philip K. Dick novel adapted for the screen by Richard …
review by . February 01, 2007
The first thing that strikes you about `A Scanner Darkly' is the animation. Innovative from the first frame, the only comparisons I can come up with is an advanced, artful leap from `Adult Swim' from The Cartoon Network or the adults' version of `The Polar Express'. Easily more fluid than either, the animation at first may come off as unnecessary, flashy, or just plain irritating. But once you get your brain hemispheres adjusted, you realize there is real method to the madness. But, oh boy, what …
review by . December 27, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Those who criticise this film for lacking in narrative drive are either missing the point or had been expecting something different. It is true that there is very little "plot" here (until the end), and much of the film involves sitting around the house, hanging out with Bob Arctor and his various friends and associates. The majority of the screen time in this film is devoted to establishing an atmosphere (and leaving a few hints about a larger plot) within which the central twist of the story will …
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I want to thank Everyone for welcoming me back! :) I'm here to stay folks, my sabbatical on writing reviews is over and I'll continue to review for Lunch. It's great to be back, too! Thanks again for … more
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About this movie


Starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson
Directed by Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater (screenplay) Philip K.. Dick (Novel)
Based on the novel 'A Scanner Darkly' by Philip K. Dick
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