Donnie Darko / Donnie Darko Director's Cut [2-disc Blu-ray] [2001]

Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Patrick Swayze, Mary McDonnell
Richard Kelly
Anamorphic, Colour, Director's Cut, PAL, Widescreen
Region: 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe)
Aspect Ratio:
16:9 - 1.78:1
Number of discs:
Metrodome Video
DVD Release Date:
19 July 2010
Run Time:
134 minutes


“Why am I not f***-ing smart enough to get this?” Clerks director Kevin Smith admits to thinking when he first saw this 2001 cult flick.

Probably a lot of people felt like this upon first seeing this willfully obscure and often inaccessible time travel tale about a troubled teen (Jake Gyllenhaal) who may or may not be a schizophrenic, obeying a creepy-looking 7-foot bunny rabbit who tells him to vandalize his school and burn down a motivational speaker’s house. (We’ve all been there.)

The film flopped at the box office – it was released soon after 9/11 and America didn’t seem to be in the mood for a movie in which a jetliner’s loose turbine engine crushes a suburban house. Or maybe it was the giant bunny that put them off. Who knows?

Despite – or rather because of - its general weirdness Donnie Darko however became a bona fide cult item particularly in the UK and a “director’s cut” version of the movie actually saw a cinema release in 2004. As director Richard Kelly is at pains to point out, the newer version isn’t the “preferred” version of the movie, rather a “remix” (his own words). We agree with him: the original theatrical version is better and the one which Donnie Darko newbies ought to check out instead.

The so-called “director’s cut” bloats the original’s 122 minutes running time to 133 minutes. (Many critics already pointed out that the film was pretty self-indulgent to begin with – much of Donnie Darko is cribbed from the director / writer’s own experiences as a teen.) The new cut also tries too hard to “explain” onscreen events with pieces of text from a book titled The Philosophy of Time Travel. Perhaps the director was stung by criticisms that the movie was incomprehensible, never realizing that for many followers that that was exactly its appeal in the first place. For fans the “director’s cut” is however a must-see.

THE DISCS: The Donnie Darko Blu-Ray gets it right by packaging both versions of the movie as a single double disc set instead of making fans shell out twice for separate discs. Except for the great-looking high-def transfer there isn’t much that is new on the Blu-ray though. Most, if not all, of the special features are ported straight from the DVD editions. This is a pity since it would have been nice to have some newer director’s commentaries, especially now that the movie is almost a decade old!

In the interim director Richard Kelly’s promising career (Donnie Darko was his debut feature film) seemed to have stalled after the debacle that was Southland Tales and the underwhelming Donnie Darko-lite effort The Box starring Cameron Diaz, which simply sank at the box office last year. Main actor Jake Gyllenhaal also seems to have shed his indie acting roots and appeared in this year’s Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster Prince of Persia. Stalled careers and selling out – that’s what happens in life, kids . . .

Still, the audio commentaries are all worth checking out. There seems to have been a plot logic behind the movie after all according to director Kelly even though it isn’t how we saw the movie at all. (We’re not the only ones. On one commentary Kelly is joined by Chasing Amy and Mallrats director Kevin Smith who points out exactly that.) To be honest Kelly’s “explanation” of the film’s plot is still on the vague side, not that fans of the movie would mind.

WORTH IT? Much of Donnie Darko’s cult appeal lies in the accurate way in which it recounts awkward adolescence and teenage rebellion. (“The Breakfast Club as filmed by David Lynch” is how one commentator on the discs describes it.) Even if you’re no longer a troubled teen there are still loads to appreciate. Donnie Darko is a stunningly original, one-of-a-kind ride and rewatching it for the umpteenth time we again realized that this is a cult worth belonging to. Unlike most cults they won’t take you for every penny you’ve got. The membership fees - ₤14 for this disc set – are quite affordable.

RECOMMENDATION: Some new audio commentaries would have been welcome. Funny how quickly references to Napster became outdated, isn’t it? (Will it be the same with Facebook one day? We think so.) Still, these discs boast brilliant sound and image quality and are ideal both for long-time and new fans. Get in contact with your inner emotionally disturbed teenager and buy it today!



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