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Blu-ray Review: Donnie Darko 10th Anniversary Edition

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Dark, twisted, and utterly engrossing, Donnie Darko has captivated audiences since 2001. Now, a whole decade later, the film has been revitalized for high definition with a special 10th Anniversary Edition. Does this Blu-ray double dip improve on the previous release? What’s new here for content? Read on to find out!

Donnie Darko is a thriller that keeps viewers guessing and scratching their heads from one scene to the next. The film’s strange beginnings merely foreshadow the even more bizarre events to come as the story slowly unwinds itself to a dramatic conclusion. The movie focuses on the life of a mentally ill young man named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal). Donnie has visions, hears voices, and is prone to react in a manner that doesn’t necessarily conform to society. He’s basically a genius level student with nutty tendencies.

In the opening moments of the film, Donnie wakes up on a hill-side road in his pajamas. He hardly seems phased by that fact, and that’s a little window into one of his quirks. He has a tendency to sleep walk and wake up in strange places. That sets up one certain night where Donnie leaves the house and visits a golf course to talk to a man in a hideous bunny suit. Frank, as the bunny is called, tells Donnie that it will all end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, which Donnie writes on his arm with a marker. What will end though? The world? Donnie’s life? It’s rather unclear at this point, but the visions only get weirder and weirder as the movie goes on. Meanwhile a mysterious jet engine falls onto the Darko household and lands in Donnie’s room. Coincidence? You decide.

It’s from that meeting with Frank that Donnie slowly unravels. Frank takes on a personality and becomes a voice in Donnie’s head telling him to do things he doesn’t want to do. He can’t disobey the bunny and it often leads to other, better paths for Donnie. One incident allows him to meet a girl he’s wanted to meet while another gets accidental revenge on someone he despises. It soon becomes clear to Donnie that there are greater forces at work and there’s a predestined tapestry laid out before him.

Things get more complicated as Donnie starts to entertain the theory of time travel. If a person sees a path before them, are they destined to walk it? Or is there a way to get around it? Is Frank really a vision from the future? If so, what does he want with Donnie? The film maliciously teases its audience with one seemingly random event after another right up until the final moments. Donnie Darko is one of those mysteries that defies conventionality and really deviates from the direction you’d expect it to go. The ending closes several doors, and at the same time opens more up for debate. It’s simply a stellar piece of storytelling. At least, the Theatrical Edition is.

This 10th Anniversary Edition includes the Director’s Cut of the film in addition to the theatrical one. The director’s cut is longer, sure, but it’s not exactly better. It’s more of a narrative that explains some things in more detail, though I can’t say that I got more out of it than the original version of the film. It’s nice to have as a side-piece to the theatrical edition, but it’s by no means the be-all end-all of Donnie Darko.

As far as the Blu-ray aspect is concerned, those with the previous Blu-ray release should note that the disc for the 10th Anniversary Edition is identical. In other words there’s really no upgrade. With that being said the film is presented with a full 1080p high definition transfer with 2.35:1 aspect ratio and AVC encoding. The picture quality is good, though not outstanding. There’s grain, edge enhancement, and some contrast issues scattered throughout the film. By and large the movie does capture some solid detail, but most of what’s here is lost in the shuffle amidst hazy visions and dark, murky shadows.

The audio package you’ll find on Donnie Darko is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The soundtrack from the ’80s pops in every scene as does the ambient noise, which creates a nice, gloomy atmosphere that surrounds Donnie. Vocals are mostly front-centric, but some nice range and overall presence on the soundstage gives them more weight on occasion, such as Donnie’s rant against Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze) in the auditorium. Overall the audio package is a brighter spot than the visuals.

This 10th Anniversary Edition of Donnie Darko includes the Blu-ray disc, DVD, and a Digital Copy of the film for your portable devices or computer. Included here are three audio commentary tracks: One with Director Richard Kelly, one with Kelly and Kevin Smith, and one with Kelly and Gyllenhaal. There are also some TV Spots, a storyboard to screen bit, a trailer, art galleries to peruse, and a collection of twenty deleted scenes that are worth your time to check out. Beefier inclusions offered here are “Donnie Darko: A Production Diary” (52:51), “They Made Me Do It Too” (28:03), and “#1 Fan: A Darkomentary” (13:17).

Whether or not you’ve seen Donnie Darko the 10th Anniversary Edition is a tempting treat. The inclusion of the theatrical and director’s cut editions is a plus, as is the wealth of bonus material. The transfer here is decent and the inclusion of DVD and Digital versions of the film add some extra value as well. It may not be a worthwhile upgrade over the previous Blu-ray release, but fans with just the DVD in their collection will want to pick this one up! Highly Recommended!

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About Todd Douglass

  • Baronius

    I’ve only seen the movie in a director’s cut. From what I understand there was a lot of added material, so I can’t comment on the original, but in the version I saw it really seemed like Donnie suffered a psychotic break. I was bothered by the movie’s attempt to poo-poo it. It seemed to be saying, just go with it. Hallucinations? Loss of impulse control? Sudden insights into unconventional physics? Don’t worry about it. It could be true, so just roll with it.