Tuesday 18th January 2022

A Scanner Darkly (15)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

When you think of science fiction authors whose stories have been turned into films, there is probably none more successful than Philip K. Dick. Already his source material has provided us with Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and, ahem, Paycheck. The last one might have been a bit of a damp squib, but A Scanner Darkly, the latest adaptation, is right up there with the others.

Robert Downey Jr. plays a convincing nutter
Robert Downey Jr. plays a convincing nutter

Set seven years in the future, the story follows a number of drug users who are addicted to something called Substance D. The effects of the drug aren't entirely dissimilar to the drugs people are addicted to today, but if you take enough Substance D it will turn you into a dribbling wreck that is barely capable of thought.

Keanu Reeves plays Robert Arctor, one of the addicts, who is also working with the police to investigate leads in the ongoing war against drugs. Arctor, along with the other members of his police department, wears a special suit that disguises him while at work, to protect his true identity. It therefore comes as a surprise when the police ask him to investigate Robert Arctor – himself. However, is everything really as it seems, or is the drug-induced paranoia getting the better of his mind?

Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr and Woody Harrelson play some of the other addicts in the film, and they are all in top form. The interplay between Harrelson and Downey Jr in particular is very funny and incredibly entertaining.

However, what makes this film stand out the most is its visual style. The film was shot conventionally, but in post-production, each frame has been painstakingly drawn over and coloured, to give it a cell-shaded look. The results are absolutely breathtaking. So, it's funny, interesting, thought-provoking, has a good story and looks amazing – all in all that's a solid eight out of ten and well worth watching.

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Length: 100 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 18th August 2006

Top Five Rating: 80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0% (80.0%)
User Rating: 80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0% (80.0%)

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