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Friday, July 21, 2006

What does a scanner see? Into the head? Into the heart?
Does it see into me? Clearly? Or darkly?

I have to confess, I have not read Phillip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly. In fact, I haven't read any of Phillip K. Dick's novels. He has always been one fo those authors for me. The kind that you hear so much about, but can never find the time to read a full book. With that being said, I did not have much background going into the movie theater. All I knew was that Richard Linklater (who I enjoy very much) was using that same 'Waking Life' animation. The animation upset me; how can he pull this again? Nothing bugs me more than when a state of the art style is over-used.

Five minutes into the film, I realized that the animation really was needed. Agent Fred, played by Keanu Reeves, is forced to wear a 'scramble suit' in order to remain completly undercover. The way the 'Scramble Suit' works is that every second or so the whole body of the person wearing it changes appearence (hair, clothes, etc.), an effect that could not have been used in C.GI. Fred is one of many agents used o stop the epidemic of 'Substance D' abuse. This drug, is the most addictive drug known to man. There are no 'weekend warriors' on substance d. You either are addicted or you haven't tried it.

With so much happening on screen in such a short period of time, it is sometimes hard to follow the plot at times. Linklater does his best, it seems, to make a movie for fans of the book. That could be the reason why he used such a fast paced animation style. As far as style goes, this is the best looking film I've seen all year.

With such great style, however, it looses a lot in preformances and direction. Fred is sent undercover to investigate the suspicious behavior of local druggie Bob Arctor. Fred, in real life, happens to be Bob Arctor. Keanu was mis-cast, flat out. The internal struggle between Arctor and Fred could have lead to more drama, more conflict, if Keanu even attempted to bring life to either character. Instead Keanu playes the do with the tail between his legs. He does not know where he is , why he is there. If only they had casred an actor who did know where they were. Robert Downey, Jr. ,however, is perfect as Barris, the nutty house-mate of Arctor, who tries to turn him in various times. I can't help but think that the movie would have worked more if those two switched roles.

In the end, the story is very legible. Although the story jumps around a lot during the film, in the end I believe Linklater accomplished all that he wanted to. This could be the sleeper of the year, a Memento of sorts. After a while, when it is long gone from the theater, people are going to realize that it is a terrific movie.


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