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He's not my friend, he's just someone I know
Boyo-210 July 2000
I cherish each and every frame of this beautiful movie. It is about regular people, people we all know, who suffer a little in their life and have some baggage to carry around. Just like all of us. Robert DeNiro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker breathe life into their portrayals and are all excellent, but Harris is especially heartbreaking and therefore very real. You would swear he really is a trucker who drinks so he won't have to feel anything. Baker as his put-upon sister also has some delicate moments - when DeNiro gives her flowers in one scene, it seems like she was never given flowers before and probably wasn't. Very worthwhile.
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The Harsh Realities for Soldiers Coming Home
gradyharp6 March 2007
JACKNIFE is a fine adaptation of Stephen Metcalfe's play 'Strange Snow' (the screenplay was also written by Metcalfe), sensitively directed by David Hugh Jones, that explores the too frequently forgotten effect of battle on veterans damaged permanently by the heinous cruelties of war. It is especially poignant to return to this 1989 film now as we watch the soldiers returning from the war in Iraq and the raw treatment they are receiving in our Veterans' Hospitals.

Three friends went off to the Vietnam War together and only two returned alive: the problem is that while both men suffered in battle the one David 'Highschool' Flannigan (Ed Harris) is so severely damaged by posttraumatic stress syndrome that he 'exists' in a drunken vacuum with his very plain schoolteacher sister Martha (Kathy Baker). As David deteriorates his buddy Joseph 'Jacknife' Megessey (Robert De Niro) returns to the town in an attempt to help his friend. In the course of events Jacknife at first offers succor to Martha and eventually the two date - at a Prom Martha must attend - and at that prom drunken David completely falls apart, destroying relics in the school and terrifying the townspeople and students. Jacknife makes Dave relive the moment in Vietnam when they lost their buddy and in doing so brings David to the point where he can begin his climb toward recovery. And the long-suffering Martha finds her needs tended by Jacknife, too.

All three actors give astonishingly fine performances: Ed Harris offers one of his most fully realized roles while De Niro and Baker maintain the high standards set by their careers. More people should help resurrect this all but forgotten film as it is a brittle reminder of the damages our wars bring to the men who fight them and to the families who receive them after battle's end. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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wonderful and difficult
pkositzky7 October 2005
I loved this movie. It is rare to get a glimpse of post-partum Vietnam, and this movie-sans combat scenes and exciting bombs and gunfire- did it. I had no idea I'd be so affected by it. What an amazing look at how alien Vets feel. It was tough to watch, quite frankly. We all understand the fighting and the Apocalypse Now type of drama, but this is so so different. What happens when they come back and try to live a life? They can't. It made me very aware of a large group of men that are rattling around lost in America. Not able to relate, can't sleep, can't have love affairs, can't deal with "normal society". They feel totally apart. This is a huge tragedy, and one that isn't addressed enough. Yeah, we've changed our attitude about Vietnam Vets, we like them now, but so what? It doesn't seem to have made any difference to them. It's too late? So it was a great film, but I cried a lot. I have no other criticisms.
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An emotional accomplishment...as the video cover infers.
Rhodes-825 February 1999
A good video selection of a movie, especially if you have not seen it before, ...if you can't find a New Release you'd like to look at. Robert De Niro, Kathy Baker, and Ed Harris supply a well rounded look of 'Healing'. Kathy Baker was just great as a supporting role.

I missed Viet Nam by one year, my draft number was high enough in the year that the severe de-escalation started. This is not a 'Platoon', or 'Full Metal Jacket'. This film is about a couple of Vets in the years' aftermath. Takes place back in the States, after the War is over. Very few flashbacks were done, but were neccessary to bring context to the film. Ed Harris plays the one person who is in the most pain, and is always on the edge of hurting others because of it. Kathy Baker plays his sister. Robert De Niro was just perfect for the part he played, as he comes into both their lives. It is not a perfect film, or screenplay; but the the actors pull it off. I believe Ed Harris was nominated for a certain award for his efforts (not Oscar, another kind).

You don't have to have been to Viet Nam to appreciate this movie. Though it is about the aftermath of Viet Nam experience, it can also be about Self. About how we have these opposites within ourself and how the best parts of ourself, even though they may be injured, try to reach out and save the most darkest part that we have. That movie describes what I just wrote and I could not avoid tears, myself, toward the movie's end. If you just stay with it; you may know or appreciate what I mean.
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Peerless acting from peerless actors.
martincooper44611 July 2006
Who votes in these ratings? "Jacknife" is a beautifully acted, brilliantly observed piece of work, with actors on top of their game, especially Ed Harris and the peerless Robert DeNiro(please don't mention Marlon Brando in the same breath of this man-see "Taxi Driver" for confirmation of this point). Is it a 'mundane' movie because it doesn't have sex/meaningless action/nudity in it. This movie is about the complexities of the characters involved. Ed Harris makes you feel every moment with him and his emotional outburst towards the end is heartbreaking. The part where he orders a young man in a bar to take off his army clothes is a wonderful observation of how fashion and the movies exploit tragic situations and how frustrated real men must feel to see a young upstart sporting military attire. While we are on this subject, "Casino" 7.8 out of 10? One of the greatest films of all time, from one of the greatest directors, starring THE greatest movie actor of all time, with the scariest film psychotic gangster ever, only warrants just above average? COME ON!!!!!
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Very Underrated film.
pk-220 March 2007
Saw this on cable back in the early 90's and loved it. Never saw it again until it showed up on cable again recently. Still find it a great Vietnam movie. Not sure why its not higher rated. I found everything about this film compelling. As a vet (not from Vietnam) I can relate to the situations brought by both Harris and De Niro. I can only imagine this film being more poignant now with our situation in Iraq. I wish this would be offered on cable more often for people to see. The human toll on our soldiers isn't left on the battlefield. Its brought home for the rest of there lives. And this film is one of many that brings that home in a very hard way. Excellent film.
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A very different kind of war movie.
Michael DeZubiria31 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Jacknife is a war movie that is just about as far removed from the war as war movies get. It can hardly be classified as a war film, because the only way that any war has an effect on the story or the characters is in their memories of it, and even these we are hardly ever shown. It poses very interesting questions about life, especially in the way that the movie's tagline says that only one of them is really alive (and by the way, even though the tagline refers only to Dave (Ed Harris) and Megs (Robert DeNiro), it is talking about all three of the characters in the film). Dave and Megs were friends in the Vietnam war, and Megs has returned to take Dave out on a fishing trip that they have been planning for a lot longer than you might have guessed.

DeNiro provides a perfect performance of the character of Megs, who we are not really sure if we should like or if he really is as nuts as Martha thinks he is. Dave reminds Martha several times that Megs is not his friend, just someone he knows. There is a great scene early in the film where Megs has gone out to grab a six pack of beer from his car for breakfast, and he is just around the corner of the room when Dave says this. Megs pauses for a moment and then proceeds into the room with a smile and a huge greeting. It isn't until later that you realize how Megs must have felt when he heard that, having been the one to remember what they had planned to do on this day. It reminds me of the fakeness of the old, `Sure, let's do that,' thing that people so often say to each other, never having any plans to do any such thing.

Ed Harris delivers a wonderful performance as Dave, who never got over the effects that the war had on him. Even so many years later he has not managed to get over the death of a friend during the war, blaming himself to this day for it and thus drowning his life in alcohol, cigarettes, and loneliness. All he wants, he says, is for people to leave him alone. This is not a man who is living his life the way he wants, whether people actually leave him alone or not, he is a man trying to forget that he's alive, to detach himself from the world of the living as much as possible.

His sister Martha reminds me of myself, at least in terms of my roommates. I have two roommates who are 21 and 24 years old, and both act like they still live with their mothers, expecting their messes to just go away when they leave the room for a while. One on particular (the older one, sadly enough), has absolutely no clue how to care for himself, I'm surprised I don't have to wipe his chin while he eats. Martha has to do much the same for her brother, who she waits on hand and foot while he staggers through life from one hangover to the next. Martha and Dave are stuck in a stagnant life and neither of them can get out of it until something major changes, and Dave is the one that needs to do the changing.

I tend to complain about romance in movies where it just doesn't belong about as much as Roger Ebert complains about those pathetic little tension devices, the red digital readout. But in this case, I don't think that the romance that develops between Megs and Martha had any adverse affect on the rest of the movie. On the contrary, it made it that much more interesting, because it was not predictable. The problem with the romantic subplots in Bruckheimer movies and whatnot is that they are so predictable that you just wait for the obvious end to come and hope that something interesting happens along the way. In this case, however, it's not as obvious that something is going to happen between Megs and Martha because we don't know enough about Megs. Martha could be right about him, that he's one of Dave's crazy war buddies and that he's not the kind of man that she should be dating. Dave certainly encourages this idea.

(spoilers) A couple years after this movie, DeNiro did Cape Fear, where he plays a deranged criminal out for revenge against the lawyer that landed him in prison, a character that, in retrospect, makes it pretty easy to think that maybe at the end of Jacknife Martha realizes her mistake, gets rid of Megs, and she and Dave make up because he saved her from a horrible relationship and then he decides to clean up his act because he has done something good for her. I was half expecting this to happen, so I was pleasantly surprised when Martha and Megs wound up together and even more pleasantly surprised when Megs asks Dave all the questions about what they had planned to do after the war was over.

At times this is a slow moving drama, but Jacknife is entertaining along the way and has a huge payoff at the end, which amazingly manages to be sappy without being cheesy. There is an almost excess of emotion at the end of the film that scarcely fits with the rest of the movie, but it is so good that it doesn't dumb down anything that the movie has accomplished up to that point. Everyone involved gives a wonderful performance, and it is one of those rare films that just about makes you want to stand up and shake your fists victoriously in the air.
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excellent drama dealing with the traumatic after effects of the Vietnam War
disdressed121 April 2009
after just having watched The Deer Hunter,which is a masterpiece,the movie Jacknife had big shoes to fill.it has same themes as The Deer Hunter,the devastating effects on a person after the Vietnam War.Robert De Niro is in this film,as in The Deer Hunter and is very good here,as is Kathy Baker.but this movie belongs to Ed Harris,who gives a powerful,emotional and impactful performance.the movie is based on a stage play,and there are one or two scenes where that felt obvious to me.by that i just mean that for those one or two scenes it felt like i was watching a stage play.that was not that big a deal,and doesn't really diminish the film.i actually really liked this movie.it's not an epic like The Deer Hunter.they are about similar era and have similar themes,but they are two very different films.i thought The Deer Hunter was great,and i also think this movie was great.it's the acting in this one that makes it so great.for me,Jacknife is a 10/10
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An Afterwar Masterpiece
cinegreece20 May 2007
Jacknife is a masterpiece of the 80's. It's a movie that breaths through amazing acting and a very interesting directing touch. In Jacknife both lovers of European and American cinema can find things to relate on. The screenplay is very compelling and full of beautiful characters. Ed Harris is giving one of the greatest performances up to date. He portrays his alcoholic hero superbly making us feel his broken heart in each line, in each move. Robert De Niro makes us once again think of him as one of the greatest actors of all time in one of the simplest but also most realistic performances in his career. Jacknife is never getting boring as it shows its heroes clear of any typical Hollywood's typical character elements. After the war none is a hero. Everybody is a loser, and this movie is about that simple truth. None can mend up his pieces after a war, just like the heroes of this movie. Jacknife is about the diseases of the soul that war creates. Simply magnificent movie.
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Dave, Megs and Martha.
Spikeopath18 April 2014
Jacknife is directed by David Jones and adapted to screenplay by Stephen Metcalfe from his own play Strange Snow. It stars Robert De Niro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker. Music is by Bruce Broughton and cinematography by Brian West.

De Niro and Harris play two Vietnam War veterans trying to come to terms with their lives post the war. Things are further complicated when De Niro gets romantically involved with Harris sister played by Baker.

Wonderfully sedate and intimate, Jacknife, whilst not creating anything new in the "coming home from Nam" genre of film, is somewhat refreshing in how it relies on dialogue and believable character interactions. Some clichés do find their way into the play later in the day as Harris' character starts to come out of is troubled shell, but this is mostly a thoughtful treatment of loneliness and the on going effects of the war. The three up top performances are well delivered, with De Niro unsurprisingly carrying the film with ease.

A box office flop on release, there's a good chance that Jones' film came too late in the Vietnam War movie cycle. It's also safe to say that the slow pace and the dialogue heavy nature of it made it only appealing to a certain demographic of film lovers. It's worth seeking out now as an anti-dote to blunderbuss blockbusters, because it's good film making that has a story that is touching and often humorous, and for many of a certain era, it's all too real. 7/10
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Damn, this looks familiar....
greywolf-158 October 2004
I stumbled on Jacknife playing on Bravo... I didn't know the title, but Robert DeNero is a damn good actor, so I started watching. And I started feeling like it was de javu, all over again... I knew the story. Then I realized why I knew it. It was originally a play called Strange Snow, and I did a production of it in collage. Play to screen allows for far more intricacies in story lines, but it is the same -- two survivors of Vietnam both reacting to the real world in different manners. The first thing I thought when I read the play after I was casted was this story is an interesting mixture of a discussion of PTSD and an parable of the Christ crucification ("Bobby"'s sacrifice of his own life in Nam being his... crucification). This movie is very much worth the time. An excellent collection of actors... the script equally effective. If you are looking for a techno-stunt movie, this is not it... it is not a deep plot movie... it is a slice of life. An excellent slice.
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modest drama carried by a strong cast
Michael Neumann28 November 2010
This entry in a small series of post-Vietnam War readjustment melodramas doesn't, unfortunately, measure up to its potential. Three notable actors do what they can with material perhaps better suited to the less demanding standards of television; De Niro, in particular, exhibits his usual flair as the extroverted, nicknamed title character, who attempts to help shell-shocked fellow veteran Ed Harris out of his depression while falling in love with his friend's lonely wallflower sister (a thankless role for Kathy Baker). Director David Jones contributes little to Stephen Metcalfe's stage play except a few gratuitous combat flashbacks, which add nothing but noise to what should have been a subtle, low-key character study. Such genuine and well-meant sympathy for homecoming soldiers is certainly not out of place, but the sometimes over-earnest treatment doesn't do them any favors.
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The best drama you've never seen
Wuchak10 March 2014
Released in 1989, "Jacknife" tells the story of Megs (Robert De Niro), a Vietnam vet who looks up an old war buddy in Connecticut. The buddy is Dave (Ed Harris), a bachelor and drunkard who lives with his sister, Martha (Kathy Baker), in their inherited parent's house in the old neighborhood. Dave & Martha's situation has degenerated into lifeless habit and stagnation. Megs doesn't look up Dave because he necessarily wants to but because he has to -- they have a longstanding date to go fishing, a date with much significance.

Kathy is a biology teacher and the classic enabler, a one-woman support system enabling her brother to continue in his miserable cycle of booze/hangover/booze. She's trapped and her guilt will not let her escape, and she knows shes trapped.

There's a scene of Kathy leaving the school at the end of her work day where she goes out of her way to stop at the trophy case and looks at old pictures of her brother when he was a high school hero with much potential. You can feel what she feels as she looks at those pictures.

Dave warns Kathy about Megs -- he's half crazy and has spent a lot of time in the slammer on assault charges, but Kathy instinctively senses that Megs is their catalyst to change, their "delivererer," carbuncles and all. Yet Megs needs change as well, and Kathy is HIS deliverer. Megs is an eccentric outcast and Kathy is his golden connection to a sense of family and community, things he's been running from since he got out of the war 20 years earlier.

Kathy is a bit of a plain Jane. Her stagnated lifestyle is reflected on her face. No one invited her to her Prom back in high school and who knows the last time she had a date. Yet on her initial meeting with Megs he just happens to mention she's pretty. This immediately changes her demeanor. When was the last time she felt the warmth of a genuine compliment concerning her looks? She naturally starts to develop love for this man -- a deeply flawed man -- something she hasn't felt for a long, long time, perhaps never. And she slowly starts to blossom.

"Jacknife" is the perfect antidote to modern cgi-laden drivel like "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and "Iron Man." Don't get me wrong, those types of films have their place, like when you're in the mood for mindless entertainment -- goofy one-liners and all. By contrast, "Jacknife" is meaningful and character-driven; suspense is created via raw, unpredictable emotion and outstanding acting (by all three members of the triangle). Take, for instance, the truck-driving scene where Dave and Megs have a confrontation. Megs starts to put the meddle to the peddle as they drive down an incline. Dave had implied that Megs was crazy and now Megs is making a statement. Or is he? Who knows what he's doing?! The truck goes faster and faster and the viewer is uncertain if this lunatic is going to kill 'em both or what.

This scene is potent because it strikes the viewer as REAL. For me it brought to memory a similar situation when my wife and I were traveling through the heart of West Virginia. We drove in silence for a long time, perhaps two hours, and then I completely exploded, screaming at the top of my lungs -- spit and tears flying. Yet I wasn't yelling at her -- not at all -- it went much deeper than that. We were flying down the highway faster and faster while I continued to vent in raw emotion. Then my wife, the epitome of calm and stable, screams out, "IF YOU'RE GOING TO WRECK MAKE SURE YOU KILL US BOTH!!!" That was almost four years ago and, thankfully, nothing like it has happened since. Why do I bring this experience up? Because "Jacknife," albeit a tad stagy (which is natural since it was based on a play), rings so true.

The film was shot on location in the heart of Connecticut in Meriden, Cromwell and Wethersfield (the diner scene). The story obviously takes place in November and the authentic locations are great.

BOTTOM LINE: If you're in the mood for a meaningful, character-driven drama you can't go wrong with "Jacknife."

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excellent movie
kai ringler8 July 2013
the bond between two men is explored in this tragic movie. it's about 3 buddies who come home from the Vietnam War. 2 survive .. one is only really alive. that's what the video jacket says, there are very few flashbacks to the war from the movie. instead this movie shows the deterioration of one man's life trying to even do something simple as get along with his sister in the same house,, the sister tries her best to take care of him, but he often belittles her and treats her like crap, his buddy takes a liking to his sister and then some problems start to develop, he doesn't want his sister going out on a "date" dressing up or anything for that matter, all he wants her to do is take care of him and the house, and to not let her have a life of her own. this is a very sad movie but It shows the bond between two friends that have suffered great tragedy, a movie definitely worth seeing.
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Jacknife and the Wizard of Oz
mccann50016 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Has anyone notice in Jacknife the reference to the Wizard of Oz? Meg's tell's Martha while at the prom, "Click your heels twice, this ain't Kansas, Martha." Also note the resemblance of the characters in the two films. Meg's is the Tinman in search of a heart, Dave is the cowardly lion in search of courage, and Bobby is the Scarecrow in search of a brain. Martha is Dorthy trying desperately to get/find home/of her own. And just like the Wizard of Oz what they were looking for they all already had within themselves. Change is always an inward journey. This is a great film. I've seen it probably greater than fifty times since it came out in 1989. I use it in my work with veteran's regarding various therapeutic issues, including PTSD, Addiction, Personality Disorders and Co-dependency and Dysfunctional Family Systems. It has been very helpful at getting across these themes.
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A Well-Acted Movie
Desertman8416 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Jacknife is a 1989 American film directed by David Jones and starring Robert De Niro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker. The film focuses on a small, serious story, with emphasis on characterization and the complex tension between people in a close relationship. Stephen Metcalfe, upon whose play, Strange Snow, the film was based, wrote the screenplay.

Joseph Megessey is a Vietnam war veteran suffering post-Vietnam stress syndrome who is having trouble fitting in with society. He takes on the responsibility of drawing Dave, a fellow veteran now an alcoholic, out of his shell by coaxing him to enjoy life again, as well as urging him to face up to some of his darker memories.

Megs finds himself attracted to Dave's meek sister Martha, who lives with Dave and looks after him. This attraction leads to a love affair, much to Dave's disapproval. Dave eventually vents his anger and frustration at a high school prom where Martha is a chaperon being accompanied by Megs. This leads to Dave finally facing his demons and acknowledging Megs and Martha for being there for him. Afterwards, despite initially ending what was a promising romance, Megs returns to Martha.

This movie is extremely well acted by its performers particularly De Niro, Harris, and Baker.Despite the fact that the movie provides nothing new about the post-Vietnam experience,it still manages to become an eye-opener for the adjustments of Vietnam War soldiers at home.Still worth watching!!!
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Underrated Film and Performances
Michael_Elliott13 March 2009
Jacknife (1989)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Powerful drama centers on a Vietnam vet (Robert DeNiro) who looks up an old war buddy (Ed Harris) but soon falls for his sister (Kathy Baker). There were a whole slew of war movies during this period but this here is the most overlooked and that's a real shame because it's one of the best. I've heard some refer to it as a continuation of THE DEER HUNTER and there might be a lot of truth to that because this film takes place fifteen years after the war and it's clear with our characters that the horror of Vietnam are still haunting them. The movie is very quiet as it doesn't preach nor does it try to scream some sort of message. Instead we just peek in on these three people's lives and how the Harris character is pretty much dead even though he survived the war. I think what works best here are the performances, which are all rather amazing. I called the film underrated but that's also true of DeNiro's performance, which to me is one of the better ones in his career. Once again DeNiro dives head first into a role and really comes away with a very memorable character thanks to his performance. For the most part his character is out going and energetic even though he has some demons inside him and DeNiro perfectly pulls this off. I especially loved him during his out going scenes where he's constantly moving and dancing around to let off all the positive energy he's trying to give off. Those are the scenes that worked best with me and the ones that the legendary actor pulled off the best. Harris is also wonderful in the film and manages to steal every scene he's in. He doesn't have too much dialogue so the majority of his acting is with his eyes and he really does a remarkable job. Just take a look at the scene where he goes to visit the parents of his friend who was killed in the war. Baker doesn't get enough credit as an actress but she too delivers the goods here. This film has a slow pace, which allows us to get to know the characters, feel their pain and understand how all three of them are trying to grow. The moving hits on some rather dark subjects and has an overall depressing tone. This might keep some people away but that would be a shame because they'd be missing out on a very impressive film with three excellent performances.
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Superb but with an annoying flaw
Cliff Sloane16 June 2002
Overall, I agree wholly with Ebert's review. In a sense, I feel that I should not even be commenting since it is so much a vet's movie and I am not a vet (I was a resister). The flaw is that Martha is badly underdeveloped and does not act consistently. My guess is that Stephen Metcalfe is a vet himself and spent too little planning time on her character.
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this movie was needed...
moritzbonn-16 February 2006
Even 15 years after the end of the Vietnam war "Jacknife" came not too late or was even superfluous. It's one of the few that try to deal with the second sad side of the war: The time after. Different from movies like "Taxi driver" or "Rambo" which use to present their main characters as broken heroes in a bad after war environment this movie allows the audience to face a different view on the Vietnam vets. Their development is shown very precisely before and especially after the war. The problems are obvious but in all this tragic there is always the feeling of some hope on the basis of love and friendship. "Jacknife" might be the quietest Vietnam movie ever but after almost 15 years this is really plausible and therefor justified. Moreover, it can make us believe that the war has not finished, yet; at least for some of us.

The three main characters are amazing. De Niro has done one of his best jobs but Ed Harris is the star of this movie. Possibly,this was his best performance ever.
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It touched home with me.
daverob17 September 2003
It really is worth watching because of all the different characters in it.You can get something from each one. I've seen it 6/7 times and have not tired of it yet. It touches home with me because I was in the military at that time and know of the problems of the returning vet. If you weren't there,maybe this will help you to understand the ones that were.I'm still looking for that perfect woman that Ed Harris talks about. Watch it with your favorite girl and maybe you will find out that you have found her. Who says that Kathy Baker is not beautiful? Her inner beauty just glows here along with a girl next door kind of looks.I still say that De Nero is the best and this only shows it more. I'm only sorry that this is not yet available in my region in DVD and don't really know why.Those of you in regions that have it in DVD are lucky.
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Drain the Pond
tieman6423 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you're stupid." - Arthur Sylvester (Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs)

Ed Harris and Kathy Baker are quietly effective in "Jacknife", an otherwise superficial film by director David Jones.

A cross between "Deer Hunter", "In Country", "Coming Home" and the countless post-war readjustment melodramas of the 1980s, "Jacknife" stars Robert De Niro and Ed Harris as a couple of Vietnam veterans struggling to overcome their traumatic war experiences. As is typical of American movies "about" the Vietnam War, this bloody conflict is reduced to "poor American soldiers" and much romanticised madness. The plight of the Vietnamese is ignored, the political context of the conflict is jettisoned and the war boils down to self-pitying, working class white dudes who struggle with scars. And as with "In Country", released the same year, Jones' message is both familiar and dubious: "you will never quite understand what they went through", we are told, but "be assured that they nevertheless went through it for you". Like "In Country" and "The Best Years of Our Lives", Jones' film then ends with our wounded warriors being healed by a little love and romance.

Still, the plights of veterans is a serious issue. Tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans died from suicide, many more suffered from post traumatic stress disorders, many struggled to readjust to civilian life and today similar conflicts in the Middle East see approximately 22 US soldiers committing suicide a day. Along these narrow lines, "Jacknife" is a sincere and touching film. Harris in particular is very good. Unsubtly scored by Bruce Broughton.

6/10 – Worth one viewing. See "Walker" and "Decision Before Dawn".
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Good movie, but the play was better.
KMuniz19 August 2005
Like a few others I have noticed within the comments section of this movie I also performed this in college as the play entitled Strange Snow by Stephen Metcalfe. I performed it first as a Dramatic Interp and then as a Duo Interp, both times doing very well with it. That is neither here nor there...I think the film lacks the feeling and mood of the original play. I understand things had to be cut for timing reasons, but it seemed at times that important portions of the play were erased in the movie. And the monologue near the end is blunted in movie-land. But all in all, a splendid effort with strong performances by DeNiro, Harris (in his best pre-Pollack role) and Baker. Watch this movie, then read the play. I think you will see what I mean.
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Great acting, so-so script
jeremy317 September 2009
I did not like the pretentious and overrated Apocalypse Now. Probably my favorite Vietnam War film is The Deer Hunter. The Deer Hunter focused on one part of the war, and then focused on the lives before the war. This movie is essentially Deer Hunter 2. The script is too loose compared to the Deer Hunter. The story is never developed to the point that the audience can truly understand and feel for the characters like the Deerhunter did. The Vietnam flashbacks are not as gripping or involved as the ones in the Deerhunter. This is why I can only give this movie 7 out of 10.

However, I think that the acting was outstanding. DeNiro and Harris are truly amazing actors. They totally immersed themselves in their characters and expressed the great anguish of two former friends who lost their best friend Bobby in combat. Harris' character is a half-dead alcoholic, who hides the guilt that he has in Bobby losing his life trying to save his.

I also like the supporting cast. Everyone in the town is part of the movie. The town obviously can't handle Vietnam vets very well. Like many small towns, it is all about being quiet, humble, and minding one's business. Harris' character, however, can't be any of these things. It is interesting how wars effect people. Some people rebound quickly, while others never really recover.
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Quiet and Compelling
MeYesMe24 March 1999
There isn't a whole lot going on in this story -- just two men employing very different ways of handling memories of Vietnam. But what it lacks in premise, it more than makes up for in acting and realism. It's a quiet film about the bonds of friendship and shared experience. We even get romance (not gratuitous -- just another very real piece of this story). It's well worth seeing.
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