A Scanner Darkly is a 2006 sci-fi thriller written and directed by Richard Linklater based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick. Set in a near-future dystopia (a common Dickian theme), the film tells the story of identity and deception as citizens are constantly under intrusive high-tech police surveillance in the midst of a drug addiction epidemic. The movie was filmed digitally and then animated using interpolated rotoscope over the original footage, giving it its distinctive look.
The film was screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, and the 2006 Seattle International Film Festival, and was nominated for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.
The war on drugs has been lost, and when a reluctant undercover cop is ordered to spy on those he is closest to, the toll that the mission takes on his sanity is too great to comprehend in director Richard Linklater's rotoscoped take on Philip K. Dick's classic novel. With stratospheric concern over national security prompting paranoid government officials to begin spying on citizens, trust is a luxury and everyone is a suspected criminal until proven otherwise. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is a narcotics officer who is issued an order to spy on his friends and report back to headquarters. In addition to being a cop, though, Arctor is also an addict. His drug of choice is a ubiquitous street drug called Substance D, a drug known well for producing split personalities in its users.
A Scanner Darkly is an astonishingly accurate adaptation of the book, though it streamlines the book to the point where the story is much easier to follow if you have the book in mind and can fill in the gaps yourself—and pull yourself away from the Waking Life/Slacker reverie induced by long, wandering, doped-out conversations.
The film version adds one violent scene that more directly references the modern War On Drugs rather than Philip K. Dick’s ’70s version. It also telegraphs the ending of the story a great deal more, by getting New-Path and the organic nature of Substance D on the record very early in the film. It takes virtually all of the content directly from the book, relying on Dick’s situations, characters, and exact dialogue, and even relaying Dick's afterword about his friends, in the form of a post-film onscreen scroll.
Rory Cochrane -as- Charles Freck , Robert Downey Jr. -as- James Barris , Keanu Reeves -as- Bob Arctor Winona Ryder -as- Donna Hawthorne , Woody Harrelson -as- Ernie Luckman , Natasha Valdez -as- Waitress Mitch Baker -as- Brown Bear Lodge Host ,Steven Chester Prince -as- Cop Mark Turner -as- Additional Hank Scramble Suit Voice (voice) ,Sean Allen -as- Additional Fred Scramble Suit Voice (voice) , Cliff Haby -as- Voice from Headquarters (voice)