7.5/10
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346 user 107 critic

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to discover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusion, and perception of death.

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2,556 ( 202)

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ON DISC
2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Anthony Alessandro ...
Rod
Brent Hinkley ...
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Hospital Receptionist
Doug Barron ...
Group Leader
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Storyline

New York postal worker Jacob Singer is trying to keep his frayed life from unraveling. His days are increasingly being invaded by flashbacks to his first marriage, his now-dead son, and his tour of duty in Vietnam. Although his new wife tries to help Jacob keep his grip on sanity, the line between reality and delusion is steadily growing more and more uncertain. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The most frightening thing about Jacob Singer's nightmare is that he isn't dreaming.

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

2 November 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dante's Inferno  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$25,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$26,118,851 (USA)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In a 2015 retrospective on the film, Tim Robbins said that one of the reasons he thought it didn't do well at the box office was how the film's violent, harrowing scenes in Vietnam didn't jibe with the national mood in the fall of 1990 during the run-up to the Gulf War. See more »

Goofs

When Jake puts his son to bed, there is a crew member visible in the mirror behind him when he leans down. See more »

Quotes

Jezebel: Well, personally, I never went for church names.
[Jacob laughs]
Jezebel: What?
Jacob Singer: Where do you think Jezebel came from?
Jezebel: No one calls me that.
Jacob Singer: You're such a heathen, Jezzie. How'd I ever get involved with such a fuckin' ninny?
Jezebel: You sold your soul, remember? That's what you told me.
Jacob Singer: Yeah? For what?
Jezebel: A good lay.
Jacob Singer: Look what I got.
[...]
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Crazy Credits

The credits roll over a grainy black and white photo of Gabe and Jacob crossing the street together. See more »


Soundtracks

WHAT'S GOING ON
Written by Renaldo Benson (as R. Benson) / Al Cleveland (as A. Cleveland) / Marvin Gaye (as M. Gaye)
Published by Jobete Music Co., Inc. (ASCAP) / Stone Agate Music (BMI)
Performed by Marvin Gaye
Courtesy of Motown Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
More than a movie
5 July 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a superbly crafted film that transcends mere entertainment and becomes an experience much greater than the sum of its parts. When you watch this movie, you are unleashing a very powerful force that short-circuits your natural ability to remain in control. It is like hypnotism, you have no choice...you are unable to think, act, or even believe apart from the intense feelings Jacob's Ladder inspires.

Tim Robbins is Jacob Singer, a warm and genuinely likable Vietnam veteran who, in spite of earning a doctoral degree, chooses to find employment working for the U.S. Postal Service. We learn in bits and pieces as the plot unfolds that his service in Vietnam included a very frightening battle, and the events set in motion on that fateful day parallel what could be his descent into madness.

Jacob's life suddenly begins to resemble Hell. He is literally chased by confusion, fear, and death, he sees unbelievably terrifying images, has horrific experiences that whether real or imagined are too frightening to bear alone. His only comfort comes in the form of the woman he lives with, Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena), and his chiropractor, Louis (Danny Aiello). Each of these people's relationships with Jacob represent more than just the roles they fulfill in his life, they are absolute forces at battle for his sanity, and possibly even his soul.

His torment begins to include the past as well, the undeniable love he still has for his ex-wife and painful memories of his son Gabe, who died tragically in an accident (played by a young and virtually undiscovered Macauley Culkin). As all these elements of the past, present and future collide in shocking hallucinations, Jacob slowly begins to suspect he could be the victim of a secret Army drug experiment gone terribly wrong.

With a haunted desperation, he embarks on a journey to find out what on earth happened to him - only his visions / flashbacks / flashforwards have become so delusional that reality and fantasy are hopelessly interwoven and nothing is as it seems. All that is decipherable is good and evil, life and death. And at the end of his nightmare, all he has to do is choose.

That's all I will share of the story. I'm not going to do you the disservice of spoiling the experience this movie is. Suffice it to say, there is much more to know, and nothing left to tell.

Meanwhile, there is not enough that can be said of Robbins' performance...although he has had better roles, never before or since has he portrayed his own emotions so nakedly. This is director Adrian Lyne's best by far, and by the way he's no slouch (Fatal Attraction, 9 1/2 Weeks).

This is not a horror movie as some may think, it is human drama masterfully disguised as a supernatural thriller. The basic elements of Jacob's Ladder have been plundered several times in recent years. We have been suckered by flashy films with clever plot twists that cheat us on story, characters, and technical excellence. This film delivers all that and more. Movies like this are set apart from the rest of the pack because you don't just watch stuff like this, you feel it too.


66 of 71 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The US army depicted can't have been very smart Nl50148
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