For some, the Blu-ray edition of Donnie Darko is a pretty big deal. The film became a cult phenomenon after its 2001 release, prompting the release of a director’s cut three years later with an additional 20-minutes of footage. Except for being available in one package, the HD release has little else to offer fans.
A jet-engine falls from the sky, destroying Donnie Darko’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) bedroom. He is spared solely because he followed a man-sized demonic rabbit named Frank (James Duval) to a golf course in the middle of the night. Donnie has always been strange but he finally finds his match in Gretchen (Jena Malone), a new girl at school. His happiness is quelled by the fact Frank has told him the exact moment the world will end. In this short time, with Frank’s prompting, Donnie touches the lives of a lot of people but may have to make the ultimate sacrifice to save them.
The plot is complex but fascinating. It revolves around time travel and worm holes. And Donnie is the key. But if it at the end you still feel confused, I highly recommend you visit the movie’s official website. It’s interactive, explanatory, and one of the reasons this film gained such a cult following. It also prompted director Richard Kelly to include pages from the guiding book on time travel as inter-titles throughout the extended cut.
Gyllenhaal’s performance put him on everyone’s radar. He is excellent as the brooding and confused teen faced with heavy responsibility. He is also supported by a very talented cast: Malone, Duval, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze and Jake’s sister Maggie Gyllenhaal.
There are numerous elements of this film deserving of praise. The soundtrack, both versions, are moving and so fitting to the scenes the songs accompany. The look is mesmerizing, as Kelly plays with speed and camera angles. The narrative is absorbing and thought-provoking. And the cast is remarkable.
The Blu-ray release combines the audio commentaries for the theatrical version with the special features from the director’s cut edition. For the theatrical cut, there are commentaries with Kelly and Gyllenhaal, and with cast and crew; the extended version’s is with Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith. Disc-two contains a production diary with optional commentary by director of photography Steven Poster. The voiceover occasionally provides specific details about shooting a certain scene; but without it, it’s just a 50-minute string of random shots. “They Made Me Do It – The Cult of Donnie Darko” is a 20-minute featurette that focuses on the Darko phenomenon in Britain. The storyboard-to-screen displays four scenes in a split screen for comparison. “#1 Fan – a Darkomentary” is a contest-winning short documentary about an odd, obsessed admirer. Unfortunately, as none of the bonus features are new, they are all in standard definition.