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Jacob's Ladder (I) (1990)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 65,986 users   Metascore: 62/100
Reviews: 334 user | 94 critic | 20 from Metacritic.com

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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Title: Jacob's Ladder (1990)

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Cast

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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. Athough 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:

Jacobs Nightmare  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$25,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$26,118,851 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In Bruce Joel Rubin's original screenplay, all of the demons who appear throughout the film were typical biblical demons with horns, wings, cloven hooves etc. Director Adrian Lyne felt that this kind of imagery could very easily come across as comic, which would destroy the film. He felt that the fact that the imagery was so far from human lessened its impact, and as such, he decided he wanted the demons to be humanesque, but not quite human. During his research into this (which was when he discovered the photography of Joel-Peter Witkin), Lyne came across the Thalidomide scandal. Thalidomide was a drug made available for purchase from 1957 to 1961. Ostensibly, it was designed to treat pregnant women; primarily as an antiemetic to combat morning sickness, and secondarily as a sleeping aid. However, prior to its release, inadequate clinical tests were carried out, leading to roughly 10,000 children in Africa and Europe being born with severe physical deformities because their mothers had taken thalidomide during their pregnancy. The most common defects were phocomelia, dysmelia, amelia and polymelia; all conditions which affect the appearance of the limbs. During his research, Lyne studied the Thalidomide case, and came to feel that the birth defects caused by the drug represented the perfect starting place for his redesign of Rubin's demons. The Thalidomide scandal was also the inspiration for David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981). 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

Evil Doctor: Dream on!
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

References Brazil (1985) See more »

Soundtracks

LADY MARMALADE
By Bob Crewe (as B. Crewe) / Kenny Nolan (as K. Nolan)
Published by Kenny Nolan Publishing / Tannyboy Music / Stone Diamond Corp. (BMI)
Performed by LaBelle
Courtesy of CBS Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

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.


51 of 53 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
Questions about His Doctor,which was killed in a car accident jt-294
Everything great except Robbins benettfreeman
My mother took me to see this when I was 4 sultrystarlet05
'Behind its dark mask lies an uplifting message of hope' Madmax56
So, why has nobody compared this to the real life case? zombiezimmer
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