Donnie Darko (2001) (Arrow Video Standard Edition) (4K Ultra HD Review)

Donnie Darko (2001) (Arrow Video Standard Edition) (4K Ultra HD Review)
DIRECTED BY: Richard Kelly
STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore
RATED: R/REGION O/2:35/2160P/NUMBER OF DISCS 2
AVAILABLE FROM Arrow Video

Fifteen years before Stranger Things combined science-fiction, Spielbergian touches, and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Richard Kelly set the template – and the high-water mark – with his debut feature, Donnie Darko. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium. Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days, 06 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank’s maladjusted instructions, and try to maintain the space-time continuum. Described by its director as “The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick”, Donnie Darko combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast – pre-stardom Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, heartthrob Patrick Swayze, former child star Drew Barrymore, Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell and Katharine Ross, and television favorite Noah Wyle – and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. This brand-new 4K restoration, carried out exclusively for this release by Arrow Films, allows a modern classic to finally receive the home video treatment it deserves.

Donnie Darko packs a plot, but it’s a very complicated plot that most people who watch it won’t understand it. Heck, people who love the film aren’t sure what it exactly is. You could probably write a book, take a class, and talk to the director, and still not have a full grasp on what the hell is going on. We know Donnie is seeing a giant rabbit named Frank, who is telling him the world is ending. We know Donnie is almost crushed by an engine early in the film that Frank helped him to avoid. So Frank is using Donnie and helping Donnie in a way. That’s the easy part of it. The “how” and “why” is when you open a can of worms. But even if you don’t fully “get” it, you still love this movie. And more or less I think you love it because Donnie connects with you. And what is it about the character of Donnie that connects with so many people? Maybe it’s the general idea the movie gives us that every living thing dies alone? Does it connect to our feelings about death and how scary the idea can be? Does its tapping into Donnie’s emotional problems and feelings of being different just hit a switch with so many viewers who also feel the same thing? Either way you look at it, it’s an emotional and dark film, but a great film. It also mixes in some humor and uses music in an outstanding way to drive different points of the film home at different times.

No matter if Donnie is finally making a connection to a female counterpart, sleepwalking, or flooding a school, you will cheer Donnie on. You will connect with him and you will enjoy watching his journey, even if it all doesn’t make the most sense. The set here comes with both versions of the film. The first time I ever saw this movie it was the longer director’s cut. It’s long, but I did fall in love with the film anyway. And now after having seen the theatrical version, I think I may like it slightly better overall. It’s shorter, doesn’t drag, and doesn’t try to make everything make the most sense. I love movies that don’t always paint the film out by numbers. I love the look of the film and the vibe. It’s a film from 2001 that is set in the 80s and at times the movie does look like an 80s film. I also love the emotion of the film and its performances from the actors. If I was to make a list of my favorite films, this would be on the list without question. Arrow remastered this movie for its 4K release. No matter if you get this standard version of it or the limited edition version you will get lots of extras and the movie looks better than it has ever looked before. It blows the old Blu-ray (none-Arrow) version out of the water easily.

Extras

DISC 1 – THE THEATRICAL CUT

  • Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval
  • Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko, a documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures on the making of Donnie Darko, containing interviews with writer-director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, cinematographer Steven Poster, editor Sam Bauer, composer Michael Andrews, costume designer April Ferry, production designer Alec Hammond and actor James Duval
  • The Goodbye Place, Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films
  • 20 deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly
  • Trailer
    DISC 2 – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT
  • Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith
  • The Donnie Darko Production Diary, an archival documentary charting the film’s production, with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster
  • Archive interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster
  • Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It, They Made Me Do It Too and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary
  • Storyboard comparisons
  • B-roll footage
  • Cunning Visions infomercials
  • Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules
  • Galleries
  • Director’s Cut trailer
  • TV spots

Quality of Transfer: 98%

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