This unclassifiable but stunningly original film obliterates the walls between teen comedy, science fiction, family drama, horror, and cultural satire--and remains wildly entertaining throughout. Jake Gyllenhaal (October Sky) stars as Donnie, a borderline-schizophrenic adolescent for whom there is no difference between the signs and wonders of reality (a plane crash that devastates his house) and hallucination (a man-sized, reptilian rabbit who talks to him).
Obsessed with the science of time travel and acutely aware of the world around him, Donnie is isolated by his powers of analysis and the apocalyptic visions that no one else seems to share. The debut feature of writer-director Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko is a shattering, hypnotic work that sets its own terms and gambles--rightfully so, as it turns out--that a viewer will stay aboard for the full ride. --Tom Keogh
In the tradition of Urban Legends and Final Destination, Donnie Darko is an edgy, psychological thriller about a suburban teen coming face-to-face wit his dark destiny. Jake Gyllenhaal leads a star-filled cast (including Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Jena Malone, Patrick Swayze and Mary McDonnell) as a delusional high-school student visited by a demonic rabbit with eerie visions of the past - and deadly predictions for the future. This "excitingly original" (Entertainment Weekly) nail-biter will keep you on the edge of your seat until the mind-bending climax.
On the night of October 2, 1988, troubled teenager Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is awakened and led outside by a figure in a monstrous rabbit costume, who introduces himself as "Frank" and tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Donnie awakens on a golf course and returns home to find a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. His older sister, Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal), informs him the FAA investigators don't know where it came from.
Donnie tells his psychotherapist Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross) about his continuing visits from Frank. Acting under Frank's influence, he floods his school by damaging a water main. He also begins dating new student Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone), who has moved to town with her mother under a new identity to escape her violent stepfather.
Conservative gym teacher Kitty Farmer (Beth Grant) blames the flooding on the influence of the short story "The Destructors", assigned by English teacher Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), and begins teaching attitude lessons taken from motivational speaker Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). Donnie rebels against these lessons, leading to friction between Kitty and Donnie's mother Rose (Mary McDonnell).
Donnie asks his science teacher Dr. Monnitoff (Noah Wyle) about time travel after Frank brings up the topic, and is given the book The Philosophy of Time Travel, written by Roberta Sparrow (Patience Cleveland), a former science teacher at the school who is now a seemingly senile old woman. Dr. Thurman tells Donnie's parents that he is detached from reality, and that his visions of Frank are hallucinations, symptomatic of paranoid schizophrenia.
Donnie disrupts a speech being given by Jim Cunningham by insulting him in front of the student body, then burns down Cunningham's house on instructions from Frank. When police find evidence of a child pornography operation in the house's remains, Cunningham is arrested. During a hypnotherapy session, Donnie confesses his crimes to Dr. Thurman and says that Frank will soon kill someone.
Rose agrees to replace Kitty as chaperone for her daughter Samantha's (Daveigh Chase) dance troupe in Los Angeles, so Kitty can testify in Cunningham's defense; with her husband Eddie (Holmes Osborne) in New York on business, her older children are home alone. Donnie and Elizabeth take the opportunity to throw a Halloween party to celebrate her acceptance to Harvard University. Gretchen arrives, distraught that her mother has disappeared.
Realizing that only hours remain before Frank's prophesied end of the world, Donnie takes Gretchen and two friends to seek Roberta Sparrow at her house. They are attacked by two school bullies (Alex Greenwald and Seth Rogen) who are attempting to rob Sparrow's house, and the fight spills into the street. An oncoming car swerves to avoid Sparrow but runs over Gretchen, killing her.
The driver is Elizabeth's boyfriend Frank (James Duval), wearing the same rabbit costume as the Frank of Donnie's visions. Donnie shoots him with his father's gun. As a vortex forms in dark clouds above his house, Donnie drives into the hills and watches as an airplane carrying Rose and the dance troupe descends over the area. The plane is wrenched violently as one of its engines detaches and falls into the vortex.
The previous 28 days run quickly in reverse, and Donnie finds himself in bed on the night of October 2. The jet engine crashes through his room, killing him. Others with whom Donnie interacted during the month of October awaken, some looking disturbed. Gretchen rides by Donnie's house and learns of his death from a neighbourhood boy (Scotty Leavenworth), but says she did not know him.