"What does a scanner see? Into the head? Into the heart?"
Based on the novel by Phillip K. Dick, "A Scanner Darkly" stars Keanu Reeves, Rory Cochrane, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, & Wynona Ryder in graphic novel style animation that lends an other wordly feel to a film that is set 7 years from now.
In this future, over 20% of the population is hooked on an illegal narcotic called (mysteriously enough) 'Substance D'. What does Substance D do? Basically, it makes you paranoid. Add to that the fact that the government monitors ever citizen, every movement and even every phone call constantly, what else could you be?
Keanu Reeves stars as Bob Arctor a cop and drug addict whose identity is a secret even to his superiors. Bob's friends (Downey Jr., Harrelson, Cochrane) are all addicted to Substance D as well. His friend Barris (Downey Jr.) suspects that Bob is a narc. Bob's girlfriend is Donna Hawthorne (Wynona Ryder) and she won't let him touch her for reasons not clear to us until maybe near the end. They all hang out at Bob's house under heavy watch by the police. When Bob is assigned to spy on himself, his personality begins to split under the pressure. The situation becomes dire for him.
I almost felt like you needed a split personality to watch this film. In reality, this might have worked as a live action movie, but as it is animated and darkly shaded in some scenes the movie as a feel of looking out a muddy window and seeing a world ideally close to our own. Also prevelent in the film as in Dick's novels was the what is real vs what is not real theme.
As Bob struggles with himself and reality, we see it all stripped from him, and it is in a sense like a death. But, death can be the beginning of something else.
Thankfully, in this film, Keanu does not save the world. I am sick of movies where Keanu saves the world. The theme of this film may very well be a world to far away from saving. Instead we see a man trying not to lose himself between what is real and what is not and failing. Indeed, probably the best picture Reeves has ever done.