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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 23 December 2015
One of my husbands favorite films
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on 1 September 2017
Strange but interesting
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on 29 July 2017
Very faithful to the book. Excellent
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on 30 March 2017
The best cinematographic rendition of a Philip K Dick sci fi novel I have seen.
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on 23 June 2016
I bought this because it is based on a Philip K Dick story and I love Blade Runner. Some decent acting cartoonised, slightly surreal plotline that is sometimes confusing. Certainly not for everyone.
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on 29 May 2015
o k
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on 23 August 2016
I thought that the idea of this film was interesting, but I wasn't really sure about the film. I found the way it was filmed made me uncomfortable, and I was confused by the premise, so I wasn't really very secure in what was going on until it ended. Very good acting, but quite confusing.
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on 18 April 2009
Now here is a interesting proposition, a semi autobiographical book by the late, much lauded writer Philip K Dick, adapted by the man who directed "School Of Rock" ("A Scanner Darkly" not exactly being an obvious follow up), featuring Robert Downey Jr, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson playing a group of drugged up, progressively paranoid individuals who basically just hang around exchanging o-so-very-paranoid chatter about almost everyone and everything around them. I confess to being a quite a lightweight when it comes to Philip K Dick. Of his writings I've only read "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep" and was startled that such a fascinating read could be altered, borderline scrapped and still be made into one of the most celebrated films ever made, you should know the one. I've seen "Minority Report"(adapted from a series of short stories by Dick) and Total Recall and while I enjoyed both, particularly the former there's something to be revelled in "A Scanner Darkly" seeing what is supposed to be a faithful adaptation (last time I use that word I promise) of one of Dick's works particularly one that is a very personal piece of writing and partly because of this the film is a tough one to dissect. Paranoia, drug use, basic human rights, identity and sacrifice are all major themes explored here viewed through the brilliant mind of Dick and the wildly creative Richard Linklater who shot the film digitally before using animators to rotoscope over live action footage giving the film a highly stylised and distinctive look, like that of a graphic novel come to life but in a more literal, cartoon-like manner as opposed to something like "Sin City"

"A Scanner Darkly" opens in bizarre fashion with the sight of drug addict Freck (Rory Cochrane) trying to rid his body, home and dog of imaginary little green insects crawling all over his body, which he is only seeing due to a typical side effect caused by Substance D, a pivotal plot point and a very powerful drug that eventually wreaks havoc with the mental capacity of the user, such as that of burned out undercover narcotics agent Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) who comes to wearily describing the drug he's becoming addicted to as "dumbness and despair and desertion...elation loneliness hating and suspecting others, and finally slow death". As a cop Arctor wears a scramble suit, an odd creation, which could only work within the film's unique rotoscoping process, which contains over a million fragmented images of men, woman and children that constantly move around. This special suit keeps Bob's identity secret from those around him though its function is to prevent fellow officers knowing who he is. Bob's personal life is filled with colourful drug addicts, his roommates, Luckman (Woody Harrelson) and Barris (Robert Downey Jr) who both happily make the most of Substance D. The director Richard Linklater makes the most of a very brilliant, on form Downey Jr working with an edgy character that conducts such interesting experiments as creating homemade silencers for sixty-one cents as well as attempting to extract cocaine from aerosol cans. Downey fills Barris with an wonderfully erratic energy along with a sense of intellectual superiority over all those around him, he talks the talk like all good bluffs but his homemade silencer and cocaine trick aren't up to much amongst other ideas and fantasies concocted by this darkly amusing, edgy, paranoid and absolutely brilliant creation that the actor brings giving a great contrast to everyone else be it the Reeves character who is either laid back, dazed or playing a purposeful cop, or the similarly strung out yet honest and likable Ryder character as well as a very over the top Woody Harrelson who, in comparison to Downey, Reeves and Ryder gets saddled with a comic yet slightly limited stoner and unlike another addict played by Rory Cochrane doesn't get to go to the darkly comic regions we see Cochran's in.

While Downey, Harrelson and Cochran's characters appear to be Bob's friends he is romantically involved with a small time drug dealer and fellow addict Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder), often a confused young woman, possibly due to the fact she's drugged up on Substance D and cocaine to the point where she robustly rejects any form of sexual contact. Yet she's an oddly warm figure in the film, the only real female presence and her relationship with Bob Arctor pays off by the time we come to a surprisingly poignant climax that re-affirms the tender soul in Donna while giving her a whole new complexion in the proceedings. Looking back over the film, not a great deal happens in comparison to the far more elaborate films based on Dicks work, there's a considerable amount of simple drug fuelled chatter among the burn-out group Arctor hangs around with. As an undercover cop who is experiencing severe problems with Substance D he begins to lose sight of his own identity and due to leads connected with Downey's character ends up investigating his own group of friends as surveillance cameras are secretly placed all over his house. As problems with D rise Arctor begins to experience difficulty seeing what's right in front of him, even wondering whether a life he had, involving a wife and children was merely a very detailed creation within his own mind. His addiction eventually renders him with two personalities, one, his undercover cop monitoring his everyday life as Bob Arctor and his day-to-day life as Arctor. These are the same person of course but when we start Arctor is fully aware of his identity despite exposure to Substance D and it was only on the second viewing that I took real notice of the changeover, which eventually leads to a tragic finale for this troubled individual.

The distinctive look of "A Scanner Darkly" may put some off, though in my opinion the performances are strong enough, particularly Downey's and Ryder's (though Cochran's character, as the actor himself feared does become little more than a cartoon) to survive the transition. If not the look, then the off beat nature of the story is sure to alienate certain viewers and produce a few negative remarks for a film that may only ever obtain a very select "cult" following, but you don't need to be a particularly adventurous film fan to give this a look, or to experience something that on a cinematic level, at times is actually quite meaningful. An open mind certainly helps in any case.
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2008
I guess some people could come to this film thinking, Keanu Reeves + Science Fiction = Action picture. It's not. It's closer to an Indie sensibility, and probably one of the best things that has happened to Sci Fi cinema in a long time, because it actually does something intelligent.

Of course, the reason it is so intelligent is that it follows Philip K. Dick's novel of the same name (okay so that means Hollywood is now only 40 years behind literary sf) which is based on Dick's own experiences with counter culture and his time spent amongst drug addicts in suburban America. As such the whole thing is slightly trippy, hence the use of rotoscope to deliver the sense of unreality experienced by addicts, dealing with shifting reality and shell games (all is not as it seems) amongst normal blue collar stock. Reeves plays Bob Arctor, a narcotics officer whose true identity is hidden from everyone so that he can effectively infiltrate a ring of users that may lead him to a big dealer. Unfortunately, Arctor is an addict himself and his superiors (who don't know who he is) suspect him of being part of the problem. So begins the sense of paranoia.

Much of the film is spent detailing the interactions of the group of stoners, much of it self-destructive, and has some pretty funny but sad performances by Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder. And that sets the tone. The film is by turns funny and tragic, much like the source novel, with a big reveal at the end that is, in its way, slightly optimistic.

So it's not a classic, and if you're just wanting escapism this probably doesn't have enough explosions, but what it is is a damn fine film and good step forward. And it's probably the most loyal Philip K. Dick adaptation ever. (Let's face it, Blade Runner was not Do Androids Dream of Electric sheep, no matter how good it was.)
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on 3 December 2006
A Scanner Darkly was my first Phillip K. Dick novel, and was a surprisingly difficult read. Difficult not just to get a fix on his writing style but to get my head around what Dick was trying to say. In the end though, it was worth it, being one of those experiences where the moment the last page turns, the realisation comes of how profoundly brilliant and unexpected the entire thing has been.

The film strays very little from the book; in fact, `straying' is the wrong word, as Linklater has really gone all out to be faithful to the original story here, with an obvious and unflagging respect. In the name of continuity one can appreciate that some changes were necessary, for example, the complete omission of the character of Jerry Fabin, instead coalescing he and Charles Freck into the one body, but none that will permit anyone to moan. Most of the big scenes from the book are here, gloriously visual, and the ones that while missing, are not missed (for example, Arctor's visit to an abusive drug dealer's girl).

The film, while by no means short, does seem to be truncated in a way that hampers the progression of the story. Arctor's mental descent was a huge part of the novel, with many mind-boggling pages spent following the slow death of his brain cells and the gradual division of his brain from his mind and his mind from his ability to live. The film doesn't give a different version of events, but how quickly it all occurs gives a feeling of slight uneasiness and all seems just a little off-kilter. Perhaps this is a blessing after all, as Linklater could easily have decided to go down the time-ignorant route and spent a good fifteen minutes devoted to artistic shots and meaningless, predictable, endless prose as Arctor's world unravels.

A Scanner Darkly is about a number of things, namely drug addiction, relationships and their ensuing fragility, state control, corruption, ends justifying the means and personal hell, but comes nowhere close to being a lecture in morality. It is one of Dick's most personal pieces of writing, and I don't believe he was really trying to say anything, just to tell a story; people's stories that, while packaged in a box that screams the colours of science-fiction, are far from complete works of fiction.
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