Though only just over a decade old, ‘Donnie Darko’ takes place in the 80s, which makes it feel like more of a throwback than it really is. That is why it is the subject of this week’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s celebration of the great science fiction of the past.
Now, for those who have seen the film, I’m sure you’re asking, “Is it a really a scifi? Or is it a philosophical question in the form of a time travel narrative?” and my answer to that is both. Not only does it involve some actually fairly detailed string theory, it also dives right into the questions everyone needs to ask about their purpose and how they affect other people’s lives — and I think the science and the metaphysical struggles are equally important.
The story follows Donnie Darko, a somewhat troubled teenager (whether this is from the drugs he’s forced to take or not, it’s not necessarily clear), who wakes up in the middle of the night to find a man outside dressed as a hideous rabbit named Frank who tells him the word is going to end in 28 days. When Donnie returns home, he finds that a jet plane engine has crashed into his house and has landed exactly where he would have been sleeping had he not left during the night.
We follow Donnie through the next 28 days as he vandalizes for Frank, butts heads with people of authority, meets his first girlfriend, and tries to discover how time travel works all with the prophesied end of the world hanging over his head. He also starts to question his sanity as his therapist insists that he’s suffering daylight hallucinations. Unfortunately, the best part of the story is what follows, but it is filled with such massive spoilers I can’t really bring myself to tell them to you here. Though, I will say that if you think about it like a time travel movie, where things effect other things in and out of a linear timeline, you probably can get a pretty good guess of how crazy the plot really gets.
So, what I will say to those who haven’t seen it, the plot twist at the end really necessitates you watch the movie twice. It’s a bit like ‘Fight Club’ in that sense, and it makes for a completely different movie on the second viewing. That’s right, it’s like getting two movies for the price of one.
Aside from spectacular imagery, a suspenseful plot, and a main character that you can’t help but cheer for despite, or perhaps because of, his rants on Smurf sexuality, the film had a supremely stellar cast, including Jena Malone (‘Saved’, ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire‘), Mary MacDonnell (‘Battlestar Galactica’), Jake Gyllenhal (‘Brokeback Mountain’), Noah Wyle (‘Falling Skies’, ‘E.R.’) and Drew Barrymore (‘E.T’, ‘Never Been Kissed’). Really, this movie has everything. It is a teenage angst movie mixed with nostalgia mixed with science fiction, with an absolutely inspired soundtrack.
There’s a reason it’s a cult classic! So if you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?!