The Cult Classic ‘Donnie Darko’ Movie Review

2 May
2010

Donnie Darko Movie Review

Synopsis: A trouble teen named Donnie Darko has a bizarre vision of a six foot tall demonic looking bunny, that tells him the earth will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. He narrowly misses being killed by a jet engine that crashes through his parents home, because the bunny, named Frank, leads him outside at the right moment. While Donnie tries to figure out why he was saved, the evil bunny continues to appear to him causing him to commit strange acts of vandalism that inevitably shapes the future.

Review: In 2001, Donnie Darko, produced by Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films, was originally slated to be a straight-to-video film until it was finally picked up and limitedly released. Doing poorly at the box office, Darko did not become the cult-classic hit it is today until after the fact. The movie has an all-star cast that includes Drew Barrymore as Karen Pomeroy, the late Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Donnie’s sister, Noah Wyle as Professor Kenneth Monnitoff, Jena Malone as Gretchen, and Mary McDonnell as Donnie’s mother. Each actor is superbly cast which brings the story together beautifully, regardless of how confusing it seems to the viewer. Darko can be categorized as part teen coming of age story slash science fiction slash horror film that is both intellectually stimulating as it is entertaining.

The film opens with the song from Echo and The Bunnymen, ‘The Killing Moon’ (just one of the amazing songs this soundtrack has to offer) as Donnie Darko (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who is seen traveling back to his house on his bicycle, after waking up in his pajamas, in the middle of the road by Carpathian Ridge. When he first awakens there, he looks out over the beautiful mountain tops and turns, faces the audience and smiles a knowing grin which is foreshadowing of what is to come.

Donnie is a troubled teenage boy that suffers from schizophrenia and is currently at odds with his parents and life in general. One could conclude that the ‘happenings’ that take place are simply a string of hallucinations stemming from his illness, but as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that time travel plays a bigger part in this story.  The bizarre incidents lead to you to ask a plethora of questions, not only while your watching it, but even more so after it is finished, as you reflect on all the hidden meanings in the film.

You will find yourself wondering what significance does the jet-engine hold, why is Frank the Bunny visiting Donnie and causing him to act out in vandalistic acts and when is everything actually taking place?

For a deeper explanation about the paradox Donnie finds himself in, relating to the jet-engine and who Frank the Bunny is and why he appears to him, here is an excerpt from the book “The Philosophy of Time Travel”, which is written by Roberta Sparrow (Grandma Death), which is a character from the movie:

“The Jet-Engine from the future, is called the Artifact. If an Artifact occurs, the Living will retrieve it. Donnie Darko becomes the Living Receiver. The Living Receiver is chosen to guide the Artifact into position for its journey back to the Primary Universe (which is basically the past). Donnie is chosen because he is the person most affected by the Artifact (since it crashes through the roof into his bedroom), therefore he is the center of the tangent universe and the only one who can close it. It is Donnie’s job is to return the artifact to the primary universe.”

Frank the Bunny is called the Manipulated Dead. If a person dies within the Tangent Dimension, they are able to contact the Living Receiver (Donnie) through what is called the Fourth Dimensional Construct. The Manipulated Dead will often set an ‘Ensurance Trap’ for the Living Receiver to ensure that the Artifact is returned safely to the Primary Universe.”

Yes, your probably trying to wrap your brain around that one, so if you would like to dive further into the supposed meaning of the movie, for it can be confusing, you can go to   http://ruinedeye.com/cd/time1.htm where you can read the book “The Philosophy of Time Travel” yourself.  Even so, it is still open to interpretation.

There are plenty of websites that offer in-depth looks into the film and I highly suggest checking them out to compare and expand your thoughts. But please watch it first because the in-depth looks have too many spoilers and one must see this film for the first time spoiler free, which is why I haven’t given much of anything away in this review. You may even find yourself wanting to revisit the movie again and again due to its richness and complexity.

I will say there is there is a hauntingly beautiful montage as the end that is done to “Mad World” by Gary Jules, where each character is shown remembering what happens in the future. That should be enough to whet your appetite.

Rating: 9/10
Running time: 113 minutes

Donnie Darko Trailer:

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