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Donnie Darko (2001)

When a six-foot rabbit starts telling you to burn down people’s houses, it’s probably best to start taking those pills again

Directed by:

Richard Kelly

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 118 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

Donnie Darko isn't exactly your run-of-the-mill small-town teen. When he's not spending his time going over his inner-demons with his increasingly exasperated councillor (Katharine Ross), he's holding full conversations with a giant rabbit called Frank. It's fair to say that Donnie, much like this movie as a whole, is no stranger to going off the scale on the weird-o-meter.

Having escaped death when a mysterious unidentified aeroplane engine crashes into his bedroom, Donnie is instructed by his slightly-sinister bunny buddy that the world will end in 28 days. Obviously that's some pretty handy information to have – but, unfortunately, Frank also tells him to flood his school and burn down the house of sleazy life-preacher Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze).

The real question is, are these frighteningly realistic visions simply the product of Donnie's decision to stop taking his medication, or is there a deeper meaning to it all? No prizes for guessing that it starts to look like the latter is the case, when a spot of research on Donnie's part starts to unravel some astonishing information. Frank's advice on the secrets of time travel, for example, seems to carry a little more merit than you'd expect from – well – an imaginary bloke in a rabbit costume.

Though at times a little self-indulgent and slow in pace, it's a hugely original movie with a genuinely mind-blowing premise. The special effects are impressive for a film put together on a relatively measly budget, particularly when Donnie begins to see a strange Abyss-style ectoplasm projecting itself out of people's chests, which he believes to be showing him a short distance into the future. The dark satire is also at times extremely funny, and Jake Gyllenhaal is consistently believable in the title role.

It's Got: A cracking soundtrack – including Tears for Fears(!) - to fit in nicely with the late-80s setting.

It Needs: To be a little shorter and cut out some unnecessary scenes.

DVD Extras Everything you could possibly ask for - commentary with Richard Kelly, Jake Gyllenhaal and selected cast and crew, 20 deleted and extended scenes with optional directors commentary, interviews with 20 cast and crew members, B roll footage, "The Philosophy of Time Travel", website gallery, artwork gallery, UK art exhibition, They Made Me Do It - making of the art gallery, cunning visions gallery, TV spots, and cast and crew filmographies. DVD Extras Rating: 10/10

Alternatives:

PI, Rushmore

Summary

A fascinating, thought-provoking and at times darkly comic big screen directorial debut from Kelly.

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