In a totalitarian society in a near future, the undercover detective Bob Arctor is working with a small time group of drug users trying to reach the big distributors of a brain-damaging drug called Substance D. His assignment is promoted by the recovery center New Path Corporation, and when Bob begins to lose his own identity and have schizophrenic behavior, he is submitted to tests to check his mental conditions.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) sits on the stage waiting to give his speech to the Brown Bear Lodge, one of the images his scramble suit displays is Philip K. Dick. This is a clever reference to the novel, in which the scramble suit is said to show the likeness of its creator once in every several million permutations. See more »
When Bob wakes up and reaches over Connie, he is wearing blue boxer shorts. But in the footage that he watches later, he is naked. See more »
[on the phone]
I looked them up. They're aphids. They're in my hair, on my skin, in my lungs. And the pain, Barris, it's unreasonable. They're all over the place. Oh, they've completely gotten Millie too.
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At the start of the ending credits, the following text appears: This has been a story about people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. I loved them all. Here is a list, to whom I dedicate my love: To Gaylene, deceased To Ray, deceased To Francy, permanent psychosis To Kathy, permanent brain damage To Jim, deceased To Val, massive permanent brain damage To Nancy, permanent psychosis To Joanne, permanent brain damage To Maren, deceased To Nick, deceased To Terry, deceased To Dennis, deceased To Phil, permanent pancreatic damage To Sue, permanent vascular damage To Jerri, permanent psychosis and vascular damage ...and so forth In memoriam. These were comrades whom I had; There are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The "enemy" was their mistake in playing. Let them play again, in some other way, and let them be happy. Philip K. Dick See more »
extraordinary and faithful adaptation of one of PK Dick's most personal
When someone on a trip starts to wig out, you take them someplace quiet and talk soothingly and assure them that everything's going to be OK. But as the tagline of this film makes clear, for these characters everything is most definitely NOT going to be OK.
For those who haven't read the book, it's important to know what you're getting into. PK Dick wrote this novel as a way of telling the story of how he and his friends in the early '70s damaged and destroyed themselves with drugs. He tells this story within the framework of a surreal science fiction thriller, but many of the scenes are straight from his own experiences with the unpleasant consequences of people using drugs and disintegrating mentally.
This film does an amazing job of capturing the feel and tone of the book as well as the paranoia, perceptual distortions, and chaos of hallucinogenic overindulgence. Add to that a story that only gradually emerges from the madness, but by the end brings in a lot of heavy ideas such as the existence of free will, whether ends justify means, etc. There is a sense of consequence to what happens in the film, a sense of despair at what has been lost. So this story of drug-addled losers becomes the story of the human struggle for identity and meaning.
I have a couple of minor quibbles regarding scenes from the book that only partially made the cut (no explanation for the significance of "If I'd known it was harmless I would have killed it myself, no little kid to explain how 6 and 3 gears means 18 speeds). Still, most adaptations of PK Dick stories take a few basic ideas and try to shape them into more conventional films that fit into established genres. Even when it works, such as with Blade Runner or Total Recall, it's not really PK Dick. Not so this film. This is PK in all his dark and perverse and deeply thoughtful glory.
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