A Scanner Darkly

If you caught the previews for this one, the first thing you probably noticed was the fact that it's animated. More specifically, it's rotoscoped--live actors were filmed and then each frame was drawn over by a computer. And unlike other, older rotoscoped films, the animation in this one was highly stylized, using thick lines and very odd shading and colors. If you're anything like me, the idea would make you immediately skeptical. It works, though. The film, as well as the Philip K. Dick novel on which it's based, is set in a not-too-distant future in which a new narcotic called "Substance D" has escalated the war on drugs to truly dystopian proportions. The story is told from the perspective of an undercover narcotics officer--played by Keanu Reeves--who, in the course of his investigation, becomes addicted to Substance D. A good deal of the film is taken up with depictions of the drug culture, from the paranoia and inanity of the characters' conversations to the hallucinations brought on by the deterioration of the protagonist's brain. This is where the animation comes in so beautifully: the comic-book coloring and the constantly shifting lines produce a very unsettling feeling. Combined with the spot-on dialogue and performances--especially from Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson--makes the film feel quite authentic while still being intensely surreal. I might have wished that Reeves' and Winona Ryder's characters had been cast differently, but they didn't really do all that badly. I think I'm definitely going to have to check out the book.

Viewed: 7/22/2006 | Released: 7/6/2006 | Score: B

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