Jacob's Ladder (1990) Poster

(I) (1990)

User Reviews

Add a Review
353 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
More than a movie
travisyoung5 July 2008
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.
77 out of 85 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
More to be felt through than thought through.
travisgentry13 October 2001
Warning: Spoilers
After reading several reviews on this film I thought I would add my two cents. This remains one of my favorite movies and I never hesitate to take in another viewing. A lot of people seem to be noting the loose script and story elements as the film's weaknesses, going so far as to call it messy and incoherent. The fact that even after seeing it several times there's still some mystery in it, still some ambiguity as to the possible meanings to all of the things that go on with Jacob, is what I find most appealing. It's not a film like the Sixth Sense where all of the pieces fall into place at just the right time and you know exactly where you stand. It's something rather that is left to the imagination of the viewer, a rare thing when audiences en mass want clear cut explanations and easy answers (hence the success of Sixth Sense, a great film in it's own right, but the complete opposite of this one).

The visuals are incredible and highly influential. The techniques used in this film have since been overused and distilled throughout various horror movies and music videos, but without ever coming close to the power of the original, which presents some of the most psychologically terrifying images ever to appear on screen. I think it's hard to come to this movie for the first time today and experience it the way you could have eleven years ago, when these type of images had yet to be seen and were exposed to completely unsuspecting audiences. The best way to see this movie is with absolutely no knowledge of it beforehand.

The mood is perfect. The acting is great, the dialogue is outstanding. Danny Aielo explaining to Jacob about angels and demons still moves me to this date and the two simple words suddenly spoken to a disbelieving Jacob from some unseen source while in the Asylum scene still terrify like no other movie can. Also this may be the Home Alone kid's best film.

The extra scenes on the DVD range from average to terrifying, including the omitted "antidote" scene, something I'm glad I didn't see when I was younger because it might have scarred me for life :). Also there is a perplexing and scary scene omitted at the end where Jacob confronts Jezebel. There is alot of digital grain in some of the shots. I would like to see a better quality DVD put out for this one, but I'll take what I can get with the added scenes.

See this movie then see it again and then see it three years later. Don't over-analyze and worry if some of it doesn't make sense, after all it's not all supposed to.
146 out of 168 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The grandfather of "rubber reality" films
Brandt Sponseller1 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The film begins with Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) and his platoon in Vietnam. When they're suddenly attacked, it's chaos, and the platoon appear to be the victims of some kind of chemical warfare. Jacob is stabbed in the stomach with a bayonet. Suddenly, without explanation, we see Jacob back in New York City. He's returned home from the war and he's trying to get his life back on track, but he keeps having odd experiences, seeing odd, frightening people, and having close calls with death. He cannot tell "dreams" from reality. What happened to him in Vietnam?

Jacob's Ladder is the grandfather of the "rubber reality" films that became so popular throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. The films with the most direct influence from Jacob's Ladder have appeared more recently-- Memento (2000), Mulholland Dr. (2001), The I Inside (2003), and The Butterfly Effect (2004). Less obvious, but also strongly influenced are films such as Abre los ojos (1997)/Vanilla Sky (2001), eXistenZ (1999), The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and The Matrix (1999), as well as films where the "rubber reality" is usually played more straight, such as The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Others (2001).

Of course, like any artwork, Jacob's Ladder has its precursors, too, such as the short story by Ambrose Bierce called "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", which was originally published in 1891 and later used as a basis of a silent film called The Spy (1929), and then a French short entitled La Riviere du hibou (literally "The River of the Owl"), the latter also airing as an episode of "The Twilight Zone" (1959). There is a very strong religious/mythical allegory running throughout the film--seen in everything from the Judeo/Christian nature of the character's names and the title of the film itself to character interests, as Jacob begins extensively studying demonology, the occult and so forth in an attempt to figure out what is happening to him. We are also treated to subtle connections with other works, such as philosopher Albert Camus' novel L'Etranger ("The Stranger"), which Jacob is reading in the film when we first see him on the subway, and there are many at least subtle stylistic and content precursors, such as Altered States (1980).

In light of the subsequent instantiations of the film's brand of rubberizing reality, as well as the more purely stylistic elements that have been used to often excellent effect in later films, such as the hyper kinetic figural motion that found its way into William Malone's films House on Haunted Hill (1999) and Fear dot Com (2002), Jacob's Ladder may seem relatively transparent or even tame. It's certainly easier to reach an interpretation for this than for a film like Mulholland Dr., where director David Lynch is purposefully obfuscatory. Still, Jacob's Ladder is one of the better films of its kind. Director Adrian Lyne achieved a continually offsetting creepiness that is rarely matched, and some scenes--such as the gurney journey through the increasingly dilapidated hospital corridors, could not possibly be topped.

Seen in the context of Lyne's other films Jacob's Ladder is all the more surprising, as the bulk of his career has been focused on hyper sensual and sexy dramas and thrillers--such as 9 1/2 Weeks (1986), Fatal Attraction (1987), Indecent Proposal (1993), Lolita (1997) and Unfaithful (2002). Jacob's Ladder has its share of eroticism, however, mostly through the gorgeous and impassioned Jezebel (Elizabeth Pena), even though her most heated moment has her appropriately fraternizing with a demon.

Lyne's relatively straightforward approach to the film's elastic ontology, especially in conjunction with his tendency to be forthcoming and thorough in explaining his view of the plot (a predilection shared by scriptwriter Bruce Joel Rubin) may be unfortunate in that there is an interpretation of Jacob's Ladder accepted by a vast majority as the "right answer". That's a shame because there are countless possible readings of this material; differing views on everything from the general crux to the smallest minutiae. Part of the inherent beauty of the film is that any scene or set of scenes may equally be taken as the "real events", and any of the dialogue may be taken as providing clues to your preferred interpretation.

Robbins' performance is important to the film in that he is the focal point of almost every scene and has to convincingly play a vast range of emotions; he does so with finesse. The rest of the cast is noteworthy, even though their questionable nature gives them a lot of leeway in terms of verisimilitude and consistency.

But the real driving force that makes Jacob's Ladder such a success is its eeriness. This is a horror film after all, both on psychological and more apparent supernatural levels. Lyne continually and disconcertingly pulls the rug from beneath not only Jacob, but the audience as well, yet manages to never make a viewer feel lost, instead producing an eagerness to solve the "mystery" while you root for Jacob.
213 out of 255 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A film that sports technicality, a fresh plot, incredible editing and immersive characters
Cubert_993 November 2004
Jacobs Ladder is one of those rare films that throws you and your mind about like a ragdoll before giving you a bitter conclusion that turns everything upside down again. Forget Donnie Darko, that was mere childs play, this film is something else. Jacobs Ladder provides an experience so intimidating, brutal, wonderful and beautiful unparalleled to this day. This is something you have never seen or experienced before in film, and will probably never experience again.

Jacob Singer is a postal worker, who, through the brutal effects of Vietnam, mentally breaks down, and starts seeing demons following him, killing his friends, raping his wife...... Make no mistake, Jacobs Ladder is a grim film but behind its dark mask lies an uplifting message of hope, freedom and mental release. I wont say anymore, because spoiling the plot for you would be extremely horrible of me, who am i to take away the magic of seeing the film from you.

I'm not going to say that this is accessible to everyone, its not in the least. If your favourite film is American Pie than turn away, this is REAL film making. A lot of people will not like this, because they will expect, like with most films, to have all the answers served to them on a plate. Jacobs Ladder requires the viewer to do the thinking, letting them have their own perceptions of the film rather then being fed that of the directors. If you do choose to go on Jacobs journey with him be warned, it wont always be pretty, but you will come out of it gratified that for once in film you have the freedom to think for yourself.
181 out of 219 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Way before Shyamalan came on board, Adrian Lyne had blown the collective consciousness!
uds39 October 2003
One "reviewer" here wrote (I presume) in all seriousness "Like a bad dream - impossible to understand!" That being the case, I can only describe his subsequent attempt to compile a review as "gutsy" in the extreme.

I believe JACOB'S LADDER is one of the 10 best films ever made. It is NOT impossible to understand...you merely have to listen and interpret! For those without the ability to effect the latter...just listen! Danny Aiello's character, Louis the chiropracter lays it out for you - word for word. I think it is the best part Aiello ever had, small one though it is in terms of screen time. Integral to a collective grasp of this great and disturbing film however is the need to tie-in the relationship between Jacob the individual, the biblical "Jacob's Ladder" itself and the relevance of "The Ladder" as explained (and seemingly forgotten by most everybody) by the runty chemical weapons boffin at the near conclusion of the film.

To those who view the ending as "rushed," "unsatisfying," "obscure" even "dumb" as I recall, I would merely suggest you watch it again and take into account the likelihood is, that it is in fact YOU that has missed what has been so cleverly set out for you. SIGNS was equally misunderstood by the majority of people that even liked it - there never WERE any aliens!

JACOB'S LADDER is Robbins' greatest film - Lyne's too. The last few minutes are amongst the most emotional and uplifting scenes I have ever seen since the "star child" in 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. Culkin was the perfect choice!

I saw this movie in a near deserted theater in Times Square the week it came out. At the conclusion of this particular late show I noticed an old man sitting some two rows away to my left, absorbed in his thoughts. Having to walk past him to gain the exit I noticed tears in his eyes. He looked up as I approached. After studying me for a moment all he said to me was "You understood didn't you?" I said, "Yes I understood!" He replied softly..."You're very lucky!"
264 out of 331 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Ascending the Celluloid Ladder"
ramstar224 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Is Jacob Singer dreaming? Is his life one giant nightmare? Is he simply hallucinating, suffering post traumatic stress syndrome form Vietnam? We don't know. But director Adrianne Lynn will show us Jacob's nightmare. He will take into the depths of one man's hell and in the process, attempt to explain poor Jacob's psychosis.

Jacob SInger (Tim Robbins) returned from Vietnam different. He is now haunted by horrid visions of demons, strange entities and people who may or may not want to hurt him. He confides in his girlfriend Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena), but she cannot fathom the horror that Jacob is experiencing. He seeks guidance from his chiropractor (Danny Aiello), an old friend who holds some all too wise wisdom. And Jacob is still broken by the death of his young son. He still mourns despite seeming to begin a new life away from his old family (he is divorced). Yet when he is on the subway, he sees a man with what appears to be a tail. When at a party, he witnesses his girlfriend dance erotically with a winged creature. And then there are the faces, faceless beings that shake rapidly. Is Jacob crazy or did something happen in Vietnam?

Jacob's Ladder is scary not because it is filled with gore. No one is eviscerated, maimed or disembowled. The true terror is psychological, touching the very core of what can disturb. We are not frightened, shielding our eyes from the screen, hiding in the shoulder of a significant other. No, we are unsettled yet mesmerized, astounded by what we are seeing. The most frightening images are the ones you can't look away from.

Take for instance the scene with Jacob on his bed, grieving over the loss of his son. We see the desolate apartment, we hear the quiet and we feel his anguish. The fact that we see a man violently vibrate his body, howling and shrieking a horrible sound is off settling. That man is not supposed to be there. Jacob knows that. We know that. Yet the director, Lynn, knows this as well. And by incorporating an image so... unusual at such an abrupt moment, it shows us the level that the film has taken. Lynn is now able to do anything, show us anything. He has become the puppeteer not only of the characters but of the audience. When a director takes away your entire sense of reality, he becomes dangerous and the audience is more alone than ever.

The ending is a matter of perspective and interpretation. One can look at it as closure. Another can look at it as a cop out: a display of cleverness. But everything that has been leading up to it has been exhilarating, a true showcase of the surreal. The fact is one cannot leave "Jacob's Ladder" normal. You just can't. The film requires too many emotions. It requires too much thought. Even for a person who admires the film, even likes it, I still cannot end the movie without feeling different: silent, perhaps cold, disturbed yet maybe even enlightened.

This film could have not been made now. There is just no way that the quality would still remain, nor the genuine terror. Today, psychology has been replaced with cliché and story has been replaced with CGI. To think of truly great horror, none have ever been made post visual effects era. The fact that this film is not ruined by quick editing, over stylized cinematography and flashy effects is a testament to the time in which it was made. The dry, washed out color, grainy, gritty appearance and subtle, ambient score are all a credit to the late 80's, early 90's: an era where the practicality of effects added to the realism not detracted. Because of this, the story, plot and characters take over, a rare occasion in today's films.

The brilliance of Jacob's Ladder arises form the film's ability to only show us the "door." The director describes it to us and only hints at what is behind. We, as the audience, are required to figure out what is truly inside and ultimately open it. The problem with modern genre movies is that the director opens the "door" for us. Why can't we choose to examine the "door" and only wonder what is behind it? Wy can't we decide if we want to open it or not? Well, in the case of the film, it is not a "door" but a "ladder." We have to decide if we want to venture up or down. For me... I ventured up.
36 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I enjoyed it much more after a second viewing
Idocamstuf15 January 2003
I remember viewing this movie a couple years back and I did not get a lot out of it, I thought it was just too weird. In fact, I even wrote a review of the film on here. I'm glad I gave it another try because I really got a lot more out of it after the second viewing. Maybe it was because my expectations of the film were lower or I have matured in past few years. Anyway, this is a highly fascinating and entertaining thriller about a Vietnam veteran who always feels like there is somebody or something "out to get him". He feels this way because he keeps seeing strange images and many people in which he comes in contact with appear to have horns growing out of their heads and whatnot. Him and his war buddies believe that these strange occurrences are the result of something that happened during the war. The best element of this film is its atmosphere and paranormal feel which will really give you the creeps as well as have you guessing what the cause of the strange occurrences that are affecting Jacob really are. Well worth viewing, and if it doesn't grab you on the first viewing, don't hesitate to try it again, you may enjoy it more. 8/10.
60 out of 72 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A visual masterpiece of horror and conspiracy.
eraceheadd21 March 2000
This is easily one of Adrian Lyne's best films. Tim Robbins is excellent and the visual affects were just awesome. I saw this movie for the first time in the theatre and it blew me away. I've seen it many times after that, purely for the visuals that were done so well. The plot twists and turns as it spirals downward slowly revealing the truth and keeps you guessing all the way to the surprising ending. This is a dark, violent, beautiful movie that I recommend to all people who love horror, and just a smart story that will keep you in suspense until the very end.
94 out of 118 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
original, scary, mesmerizing what more can I say?
dbdumonteil27 September 2003
For several years, there's a very trendy cinematographic genre. This is the "psychological fantastic". This genre is very successful as the movies: "the sixth sense" (1999), "what lies beneath" (2000) or "unbreakable" (2000) showed. All these movies must have been influenced by "Jacob's ladder". In this way, you can regard Adrian Lyne's movie as a precursory and innovative movie. Lyne achieved a masterstroke in an absolutely new genre for him. It means that you're very far from the atmosphere of "9 weeks and a half" or "fatal attraction".

"Jacob's ladder" is based on an outstanding screenplay including numerous weird details that increase the spectator's curiosity. It's precisely with the spectator that Lyne and Bruce Joel Robin, the scriptwriter play with. They take a malicious pleasure in getting the spectator lost in a real maze where seem to border dream and reality. Like Tim Robbins, you look for the clue to the mystery. This clue may be the chemist which Jacob's meeting at the refreshment bar truck. This chemist will lead the plot towards an amazing conclusion.

In Adrian Lyne's movie, there's also a part of the fantastic genre that is very well exploited: at first common and normal living conditions but that are little by little overcome by the unreal, the strange and the fear.

The movie also enjoys an outstanding performance to begin with Tim Robbins. A brilliant success and a movie that deserves to rank among the ten best fantastic movies of the nineties
61 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fantastic Movie/One Problem
robherd5 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I definitely fall into the "Loved this Movie" category. It works on so many different levels--as horror, suspense, mystery, thriller, even love story. In fact, I don't think this movie could've worked nearly as well if you didn't actually feel for this guy (Robbins) wholeheartedly. You can tell that this guy really loved his wife and his child. That's a testament to Robbins' performance. As others have said, I think the movie makes complete sense: Everything in the movie that occurred after Vietnam never really happened. He is simply imagining/hallucinating/dreaming it all as he lay dying in Vietnam. That's not to say that some of those events that he dreams about didn't really happen; for instance, his son really has died and he is now remembering him. And he really did work at a post office and probably had a crush on one of the workers there (Pena), so he is imagining a separate life with her. It all fit very well for me. However, I do have one problem with my own theory, and it's somewhat small, but important in my opinion. If everything after Vietnam never really happened, how did he find out about "The Ladder" (Bad LSD) as he lay dying? In the movie, an ex-Nam buddy tells him about it back in the States. But if he never actually went home, he would never have known about it, being that one of his own soldier-buddies attacks and mortally wounds him in the jungle. My best rationalization for this is that as he lay dying, he overheard some doctors or military personnel discussing what the bad LSD had wrought. Jacob then transposes those conversations into his own dreamlike state, creating the character of the hippie LSD scientist who created it. Yet it seems as though we are meant to believe that the scientist (Craven) actually did create it. It's the one part of the movie, for me, that crosses the line between the two worlds (reality and dreamlike/nightmare) and expects us to accept it. I wonder if anyone else has the same problem with this one pat of an otherwise fantastic movie.
9 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Brilliant! On par with Kubrick!
Leif Barbre Knudsen26 July 2004
Jacob's Ladder is a masterpiece. Nothing less.

It has a highly intelligent plot though not difficult or artsy and is void of cliches. It therefore confuses and aggravates many viewers and professional reviewers always wanting a standard has-it-all Hollywood outpouring.

It is so few films that leaves room for independent thoughts. Jacob's Ladder tumbles your mind the same way a dream of your own does. I have never felt this effect in a film so strong before. The images comes pouring in and your brain tries to make sense of it. Whenever you think you have a grasp it slides away again.

The brilliance of the progression of the story, twists and turns, and the final explanation, so obvious but elusive as real dreams are, makes it on par with the best of Kubrick.
76 out of 97 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Outstanding Tale of Psychological Terror
dnjjr27 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
N.B.: Spoilers within. If you have never seen "Jacob's Ladder," do not read beyond this first paragraph. I would never ruin the special experience for the first-time viewer. Just know that it is not for the faint of heart, but that none of its disturbing material – which there is a lot of – is gratuitous: I promise you. If you're up for the film's emotional intensity, graphic visual style, and thought-provoking plot, then see it. Period.

This entire movie (except for a single scene I can think of) takes place in, is made of, Jacob Singer's mind. He is on a long, agonizing search. What really happened to him in Vietnam? Why are demons tormenting him? Why are secretive army thugs harassing him? Why is his very existence a disintegrating fugue between three worlds? Is he even alive, or is he experiencing hell? Ultimately, what is the meaning of his life?

Roughly in the manner of "Slaughterhouse Five," Jacob lurches uncontrollably between 'Nam, life with Jezebel, and life with Sarah and their two sons. Which is real, and which is only a dream? We are kept guessing, and this really propels the story forward. Jezebel is a purposely complex character: highly sensuous, feisty and impatient, compassionate and concerned. Sarah and the children are all about stability and love. 'Nam is, of course, Jacob's worst nightmare. But his deepest anguish is the loss of his youngest, favorite son, Gabe, who died in a tragic, untimely accident.

Evil seems to be winning the war through much of the film, but Jacob's visits to his chiropractor, Louis, are oases of relief and Light. Louis is literally the film's guardian angel: sage, mentor, savior. Not only does this angel bravely extract Jacob from a hellish entrapment in the hospital; his wise words (see below) revisit Jacob in the penultimate scene and help him achieve his final release. The appearance late in the film of "the Chemist" offers another temporary reprieve from the terror, if only because he has an important piece of the Truth.

"Jacob's Ladder" of course does not belong to the traditional horror genre. It is far richer; a uniquely psychological-horror film. It is so effective because the viewer is inside Jacob's mental state, experiencing the horrors and fears as he does. For all the emphasis on evil, there is a thread of Good, often in symbolic Christian guise which structures the film in a long tradition. The main characters' names: Jacob, in the Bible the personification of personal struggle; Jezebel, thought of through the ages as all that is wicked in Woman (yet our Jezebel here is much more); Sarah, astonishing beauty; Eli, the Old Testament priest and judge; and Gabriel, the "Left Hand of God," chief messenger who is sent to earth to prophesy and aid. There is Jacob's Ladder, the gateway by which angels pass from heaven to earth and back. And there is the welcome presence of Louis, who quotes Meister Eckhart, the 14th-century Christian mystic and philosopher. In Jacob's most crucial meeting with Louis, he hears Eckhart's decisive wisdom. To crudely paraphrase: in death, or in one's fear of it, let go of all earthly concerns, and the demons will release you.

Director Adrian Lyne is brilliant here; this film has to be his magnum opus (to date). He works effectively between sustained eeriness, flat-out terror, and meditative quiet. Every technical element is impeccably realized and integrated, and the acting is first-rate. The character of Jacob has to be one of the most beaten down, harried, confused, and embattled I've ever seen, yet he is a fighter to the end. He drives himself toward the answers. Tim Robbins could have easily slipped into overdone caricature, but he finesses the role admirably. Elizabeth Pena captures the many shadings of Jezebel. Danny Aiello conveys persuasively Louis's strength and serenity. And kudos to writer Bruce Joel Rubin, who – after all of the dark, demonic struggles and bewildering reality bending – rewards Jacob, and us, with a transcendent resolution to the greatest questions there are at the end.

I won't even bother with what is real and what is not and what is what, except to say that the film may or may not be a take on the great Ambrose Bierce short story "An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge." Despite any concrete interpretations even by its director or writer, their own creation defies easy answers. I welcome a film of diverse readings. It means very different things to different people; it says something new with each viewing. (Personally speaking, I don't watch this film often; it has a powerful spell over me that I don't want to lose.)

A last word about the music: Maurice Jarre's haunting and unsettling score perfectly supports the story. His contribution to the feel of the moment is immense. Finally, there is the coup of using the song "Sonny Boy," which becomes a leitmotif for Gabe, the absolute love of Jacob's life. (It's an astounding fit: "...You're sent from heaven and I know your worth / You made a heaven for me right here on the earth / When I'm old and gray, dear, promise you won't stray, dear / for I love you, Sonny Boy.") Early in the film we briefly see Jacob bouncing along in his Postal truck: he is casually singing a broken version of the song. At Gabe's first appearance, the song sounds as if from a magical music box. A minute later, father and son sing it together as Gabe is tucked into bed. But, in a jaw-dropping stroke, the classic version by Al Jolson wafts into the air just after Jacob is pronounced dead in the final moments; it continues through the fade-to-black and into the credits...it segues into the beyond. Is it the last thought Jacob has on earth?
13 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It's a shame Lyne and Rubin didn't team up again...
Bryan Way21 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is the kind of movie that is sorely missing from today's theatres. While numerous directors and writers (too numerous to count) are trying to take horror films in new, original, and relevant ways, Jacob's Ladder will stand the test of time as a cult film that is truly terrifying and goes the extra mile by containing both criticism of military politics and an incredibly dense emotional subtext, none of which overwhelms the final product.

Current horror films take the concept of gore, jump scares, and soundtrack to the utmost extreme, sacrificing mood, tension, and restraint, which are the biggest assets to a horror film. Jacob's Ladder utilizes every tool in the horror palette that it needs while remaining true to its own ethos. The best scene to fit this example is the party, where one of the characters quite literally dances with a demon. In a more contemporary horror film, we would clearly see this demon, shots might be in slow motion to emphasize the sexuality in it, we would probably get creepy soundtrack music, the character in question would probably get torn apart, and at least part of the demon would likely be CGI.

Instead, the demon is seen in flashes that are quite unclear, which gives the viewer the idea that what they're NOT seeing is more terrifying. The sequence takes place in real time with appropriate dance music in the background without sacrificing the sexuality and the meaning of what is happening; this gives it a more realistic feel to the viewer. All the visual effects are in camera, but never in the same shot as the protagonist, offering a distance that allows for interpretation; is what the protagonist seeing reality, or an illusion?

This one scene (which is by no means a plot spoiler) is indicative of the technical, formal, and metaphorical mastery of this film. The explanations for what is seen in the film are critical without being overbearing and toe the line for believability while leaving space for interpretation. The mood conveyed by the film is consistently dark, darker than most any other film could hope to achieve. It's so dark, in fact, that a large majority of people were practically catatonic leaving the original cut of the film.

This film fires on all cylinders; the directing, writing, acting, music, special effects, production design, message, mood, and tension are always kept exactly where they should be. Simply put, it's a dark masterpiece.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
George_Bush19 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers

Jacob's Ladder (1990) The opening scene in Jacob's Ladder takes place during the Vietnam War. A small group of US soldiers are joking around, but suddenly they are attacked by the enemy (apparently)! As the attack starts some of the GI's suffer from strange attacks and everything turns into chaos. Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is wounded by a bayonet but we don't see by who and why. The rest of the movie revolves around this day and what really happened.

Singer drops to the ground in Vietnam and we are taken to New York. The war is over and Singer has recovered from his wound and is now working as a postman even though he took a PhD before going to Vietnam. The reason: After the war he "didn't want to think anymore". He has left his wife Sarah, and now lives with his girlfriend Jezebel (Elizabeth Peña). Sarah and Jacob had three children together, but one, Gabe (Macaulay Culkin), was killed in an automobile accident before Jacob went to Vietnam.

Jacob suffers from eerie attacks in which he is hunted by inhuman beings. At a party he has one of his attacks and he sees Jezebel dancing and having sex with a demon on the dance floor (looks like something from a hentai cartoon). One day Jacob receives a call from one of his old Vietnam buddies. He suffers from the same attacks, and he is convinced it's demons and he's going to hell. He is freed from his torment when his car blows up just after he and Jacob parted. It turns out that the whole platoon is suffering from the same attacks, and they believe that the army must have done something to them. They ask a lawyer, Geary (Jason Alexander), to take their case and he initially accepts.

Now the movie turns momentarily into a government conspiracy thriller, because Jacob learns that his army buddies have abandoned the case and so has the lawyer. Jacob is pretty sure that the army has pressured them out. He is proved correct when he himself is forced into a car for a 'friendly' conversation with a couple of government thugs. Jacob fights them off and jumps out of the car. The landing hurts his weak back and he is taken to a hospital (after he has been robbed by Santa Claus, who steals the wallet with Jacobs only picture of Gabe). The movie is also known, as Dante's Inferno and we understand why when Jacob arrives at the hospital. This is my favorite scene in the movie – as if hospitals weren't scary enough… There are limbs and blood all over the place and strange and deform people crowd the hallways. The Evil Doctor (deservingly credited as such on IMDb!) tells Jacob that he's dead. Louis (Danny Aiello) who is Jacob's chiropractic gets him out.

Home again Jacob is contacted by Michael (Matt Craven) who worked as a chemist for the US army in Vietnam. He tells the story about The Ladder – a drug designed to turn soldiers into killing machines. The drug was first tested on animals and Vietcong soldiers with incredible and scary results – Jacob's platoon was the first US test subjects. They turned mad and killed each other! In this scene Lyne proves that the imagination is far better than any images when Michael tells about the drug testing – Michael never thought people could do such things to each other…

Earlier in the movie Louis told Jacob (which is the essential quote of the movie):

"Eckhart saw Hell too. He said: The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth".

Now Jacob returns to the house where he lived with Sarah. His dead son, Gabe, comes to get him. Hand in hand with Gabe, Jacob walks up the stairs into the light. The demons have turned into angels and Jacob is in heaven! Now we are taken back to Vietnam where Jacob dies in a MASH unit – the doctors couldn't do anymore, but they notice how peaceful Jacob looks. The only REAL things in the movie was the first and the last scene – the rest was a dream/hallucination/divine intervention…

I consider this to be Tim Robbins best performance ever and Adrian Lyne's best movie – a somewhat overlooked treasure (not on the horror board where most have seen it). The brilliant score by Maurice Jarre and beautiful cinematography by Jeffrey Kimball (True Romance and Stigmata) creates the perfect mood and atmosphere for this thoughtful experience. The movie isn't filled with special effects – often they just hint what's going on and leaves the rest to the imagination. The fast motion head jerks are very powerful and the same goes for the scene where Jezebel's eyes turn black – a scene also used very effective in The Passion of the Christ.

My rating: 9/10
44 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Here's A Film You Could Spend Hours Discussing
ccthemovieman-124 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Can you say "disturbing?" Well, that adjective surely fits this unusual movie, one I've only viewed once but plan on seeing again sometime this year.

It's a strange film and could be taken a number of ways. For instance, it has some twisted theology but yet could also be used as a tool for evangelism. It's a difficult movie to interpret but a commentary/interview extra on DVD does explain some questions one would have after watching this because a lot of people apparently misinterpret this film.

It's not family fare, I'll tell you that. The language is brutal and there are some scenes in here that are not for the feint at heart. The lead character, played by Tim Robbins, is a tortured soul and plays that role well. Most of the story is told in flashbacks as a man is dying and is going through the final stages of death, recalling some key moments in his life. Those moments are magnified: the bad being shown worse than what it was and vice/versa. The main message here is "As long as you are afraid of death, the evil demons will torment you, but when you let go and aren't afraid anymore, you'll find those demons to be angels."

This is the kind of film you could probably write long, long essays on. Suffice to say, it's quite different, can be very offensive, but - if you're willing to take a shot at something different and unpleasant at times - it is definitely worth checking out, and then discussing.
21 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great Film ***Spoilers here***
mike6248123 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
***Spoilers here***

This story focuses on a Vietnam veteran named Jacob Singer who is experiencing flashbacks in his present life. He is losing his hold on reality, and nothing seems real. These flashbacks of Vietnam horror are mixed with present and taking over his thought process. He is having problems existing and remaining sane. Ving Rhames and Jason Alexander have minor roles but are effective. The real star of the film is Tim Robbins, who is excellent. Jacob is a nervous wreck, and very vulnerable. His character displays a great range of human emotions, and one is often questioning who is Jacob Singer; what is his identity?? It is blurred through the different symbolic characters that exist in his mind. His women in his life: his wife Sarah and Jezebel; his chiropractor, and his Vietnam veteran buddies. Yet he is not set and committed to either one of these characters except two. Firstly, he loves and misses his dead son, Gabe. He genuinely loves his son, and that love is what allows him to let go of the world and ascend up his own ladder to the afterlife.

Secondly, he escapes to the character of Danny Aiello when he needs healin g and help. Throughout the film, one is questioning the validity of what is really occurring. Is Jacob dying? Is he in a living hell? Or is he just plain insane? He cannot trust many people, except Louis (played by Danny Aiello) his chiropractor. Louis reveals the truth of the film near the end: that Singer is in between heaven and hell and not letting his soul ascend to Heaven. He has to let go and allow the angels to take him up to Heaven. Otherwise, the devils will perpetually stalk him and make his life a living hell. The drug twist was an interesting curve that was effective, yet I am glad the movie did not end on that note. It would have seemed an unnatural conclusion given Jacob Singer's experiences in the film. It was not a nightmare, nor any dream or hallucination. It was a true experience in all the sense of that word. The events, characters, and manifestations that are shown in the film come from Jacob's mind in a sincerely truthful way. They all are symbolic of different aspects of Jacob's psyche. It is like a dream; but dreams are not as symbolic as Jacob's experiences here. It is much more than any dream. It is an altogether different form of reality. It is the place where reality seizes to exist. It is the playground of one's own mind; dreamlike, yes, but not a dream. The mind is of itself and creates images that are representative of his whole existence and being. His entire life exists solely in his mind at this point. Physically, he is not on earth anymore, but in a type of purgatory of the mind. Essentially, the whole film is what he sees in his mind on his deathbed; the horror of death, the fear of hell and of staying on Earth when your place is in heaven.

The ending features a great camera shot. Singer is lying dead on an operating table and the doctors walk away from it wondering this man's name. This takes away from the uniqueness of Jacob Singer, the person. It depersonalizes him. Instead of having a peaceful, deeply emotional ending where he is walking to Heaven it ends on an impersonal, almost apathetic note, with a subtle hint of uncertainty. It brings up a fundamental question: what happens to someone when they die?? No one really knows and there will always be uncertainty. Thus, one cannot be certain that Jacob Singer went to Heaven in this film. If it had ended on the shot of him going up the stairs with his son, him ascending to Heaven would most certainly be true. Yet, at the end, he is just one man who has died in Vietnam. It is a cold and somber ending. Though he is peaceful and dead, his ties to the world have been severed. This is a great conclusion, for it takes it away from the personal nature of the main character and it focuses on the more significant question of what death really is?? To the rest of the world Jacob Singer has died and is just another dead body who is `done singing'. Yet personally in his mind Jacob is going to Heaven and is sure of it. I love how subtle this idea is brought up here. The uncertainty of the 'undiscovered country' is a question that no one can answer-yet everyone asks. This is a very compelling story, with a satisfying ending. It also has a good number of curves along the way that give it good sustenance.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Devilishly Impressive
gentendo12 September 2009
Adrian Lyne's, Jacob's Ladder, is the freakishly twisted tale of Vietnam war vet, Jacob Singer, who, after being ambushed in Viet Cong by an agent orange assault, returns to his home town in New York City only to suffer from extreme post-traumatic hallucinations. The hallucinations become increasingly bizarre as Jacob struggles to overcome the painful memories of his son (played by Macaulay Culkin) who was killed while he was in the war.

Lyne uses seemingly ordinary images to evoke the fear and sickness that Jacob suffers with, from vapid shower curtains and naked spines, to the grotesque slab of meat inside a refrigerator—all induce a sense of estrangement and insanity. Later he uses more horror-styled elements: coiled reptilian tails, saber-tooth's, convulsing heads built on paint bucket shakers, etc.

The nonlinear style cuts back and forth between Jacob's present life in NY and his former life in Viet Cong. At times, flashes of a later life (i.e. an afterlife) appear on screen that seem to foreshadow his inevitable fate. Jacob begins to see literal demons infiltrate his perceptual awareness, haunting and tearing at his soul, causing him to sink lower and lower into the depths of madness as he struggles to let go of his memories and embrace death. But are these demons real, or are they simply figments of his hallucinatory imagination? Along the way, he shares multiple conversations with his guardian angel chiropractor, Louis (Danny Aiello), who imparts very peculiar, almost preachy wisdom to Jacob to help him calm his hellish nightmares.

Quoting from Meister Eckhart (the master of Negative Theology), he says: "Eckhart saw Hell too; he said: 'the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you,' he said. 'They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and… and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.'"

Most of the time, the viewer is unaware of where the story is headed. It's like an LSD trip gone seriously wrong and without that backup friend to soothe or provide remedy. It's also somewhat reminiscent of C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters," very self-aware of the macabre and forces you to ponder uncomfortable subjects. The film is one of my favorites, as it merges the gap between the two worlds we exist in—the dark one and the light one—not to forget exposes the two voices that exist inside us all—the devilish one and the angelic one. A must see for the spiritually intune!
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Anguishing, Intriguing, Original, Unique
Claudio Carvalho7 October 2006
On 06 Oct 1971, in Mekong Delta, Vietnam, the American soldier Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is wounded by a bayonet during an attack to his platoon. He wakes up in New York subway while going home late night after working overtime in the post office. He is divorced from Sarah (Patricia Kalember), lives with his colleague and lover Jezebel (Elizabeth Peña) is a small apartment in Brooklyn and misses his young son Gabe (Macaulay Culkin), who died in an accident where Jacob feels responsible for. Along the next days, Jacob is chased by demons and finds conspiracy in the army, while having different visions of different moments of his life.

Yesterday I saw "The Jacket" and I decide to see once more "Jacob's Ladder", maybe for the fifth time. This anguishing and intriguing story is one of the most original and unique I have ever seen, and has been plagiarized many times mainly in the foregoing mentioned "The Jacket". Tim Robbins gives another top-notch performance in the role of a troubled man resolving his life, due to the feeling of guilty for the loss of his younger son. Bruce Joel Rubin, who also wrote and produced "Ghost", "Jacob's Ladder" and "My Life", shows that is very connected with spiritual issues, approaching this theme in his films. The Brazilian title of this movie, "Alucinações do Passado" ("Hallucinations From the Past"), wrongly induces the viewer and destroys the dubious sense of the original title: Jacob is the lead character, "Ladder" is the name of the experiment his platoon and him had been submitted in Vietnam; but the interpretation of "Jacob's Ladder" in the Bible is that this is the only means to reach the total ecstasy, the plenitude, however, we need first supersede the obstacles that we find in our ascension. Further, "Jacob experienced a vision in which he saw a ladder reaching into heaven with angels going up and down it, a vision that is commonly referred to as Jacob's Ladder" (from "Wikipedia"). Another interesting aspect is that all the characters have biblical names. For example, Jezebel is considered the most wicked woman in the entire Bible (the character of Elizabeth Peña was responsible for the separation of Jacob and Sarah and maybe he was blaming her for keeping him far from his family); and Gabriel is the angel that explained signs from God and announced the conception, birth, and mission of Jesus to Mary. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Alucinações do Passado" ("Hallucinations From the Past")

Note: On 19 May 2009, I saw this movie again, now on DVD.
44 out of 64 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An Excellent Movie Full of Symbolisms
jcanettis11 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
There are some movies that really set a great precedent, and "Jacob's Ladder" is a leading example. Long before movies like "The Sixth Sense" or "The Others" were out, "Jacob's Ladder" was one of the first movies to play so artfully with combinations of the natural and the paranormal, the real and the surreal, and most importantly, a movie that manages to bring the viewer completely by surprise in the end, by making everything seen up to that point shown in a different perspective. The film is full of symbolisms, which are capable to be grasped by someone only if he/she sees the movie more than once. It is not a horror movie, yet there are some scenes that can definitely scare you quite much.In brief, it is a GREAT, 10 out 10, THOUGHT-PROVOKING movie, but be prepared for a hard ride when you watch it!

And now, let me express my thoughts of how I interpreted it.


I subscribe to the following theory as expressed in several variations by other reviewers in this forum: Jacob gets hit by friendly fire in Vietnam, and his fellow soldiers try to rescue him, yet to no avail in the end. This is the "real" part of the film, which ends with the two doctors claiming that "we lost him" in the last scene.

The "surreal" part that is taking part in Jacob's mind (or soul) throughout this period, is that he descends to hell (subway), straggles with demons (Jezzebel, evil doctors, "Santa Claus" in the street, security men, etc.), but finally the angels (chiropratic, Sarah, dead son, chemist) show him the way up to heaven. Throughout this process, he is punished for his noughty thoughts (or maybe acts) that he had with Jezzebel when he was married, he is told the truth about what happened to his "ladder"-drugged battalion (chemist), and he is taught to live with the fact that he has to reconcile with what haunts him and pass away peacefully (chiropractic).

It is interesting to note that the film plays with many symbolisms: Biblical names (Jacob, Jezzebel, Sara), hellish subway where everything is locked, stairway to heaven with shining light, Jezzebel burns Sarah's and kids' photos in fire, demons with horns and tails, Jake burns in fever, etc. Moreover, the idea is that only Jake is salvated; his friends try to break free with him, but finally are doomed to stay in hell.

I think that the more ones sees the film, the more he/she will find out new things. EXCELLENT!
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Absolutely one of the finest films ever
Jasson Cresanto28 June 1999
I saw this movie when it first came out and liked it. However, recently I viewed it for a second time on DVD. Now, having seen it with better 'movie' eyes, I have to say that few films can deliver what Jacob's Ladder delivers. A phenomenal script side by side with a talented cast that keeps you mesmerized for its entirety. Furthermore, if you have the chance; see the deleted scenes on the DVD (and laserdisc?). There is one that stands out. Near the end, a scene was deleted. It is absolute poetry and, frankly, I can't believe it was left out. Anyway, there wasn't a '15' in the voting menu...so I gave it a '10'.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An imaginative and different horror; interesting enough for repeat viewings, with a great sense of paranoia and strange imagery (spoilers)
bob the moo19 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Years after surviving his time in Vietnam, Jacob Singer is still traumatised and suffering from violent flashbacks. He is separated from his wife and is keeping it together the best he can – but things are starting to happen to him. Entrapment in a closed subway station is the start of it, with monsters and demons also closing in on him. When he meets an old army comrade who is also having the same experiences, he finds hope – but it is short lived. Jacob soon comes to realize that the army must have done something to his whole unit that is only catching up with him now.

I have seen this film a couple of times and there is something about it that means I will probably come back to it within a few years. The plot is difficult to say the least but also comes across as pretty easy to get into – it is only really in the final scene that I have myself forced to question everything I had seen. Of course this is not to say the film has a 'normal' storyline to it because it doesn't – it is weird, full of visions and the plot, although seemingly easy to follow, is still very strange. The film takes us into two different paths and both of them make as much or as little sense as each other and the film never actually lets me decide which one of the several ideas is true; it is too easy to just say 'he is dead and it is all a dream' and instead I always find myself trying to work out more about it. I wonder is Singer dead and this is a sort of purgatory? Is he suffering from the effects of drugs? Is he mad? Or is it just a dream? It may frustrate some viewers, but for me part of the appeal is that it could be any or none of these things.

It is hard to really describe and I know that it may annoy and alienate some viewers but for me the strange mix of material really works. Boiled down to its essence, the film is consistently creepy but also rather harrowing at points. The images are weird and well delivered, half-seen and a little disturbing – it is not the normal stuff of horror movies but comes across a little more up market; it is less about gore than it is about the mood that the images present. Lyne directs with a really cold air and it makes the film all the creepier; but he also gives us enough of a human story so that flashes of Singer's family, children and dead son are rather moving and engaging. Of course this is only helped by a great central performance by Robbins who conveys a palatable sense of fear throughout but also blended with a real tragedy that helps me get into the story. He is supported by a cast that looks better over the years with many of those in small roles becoming much more famous since this (Rhames, Vince, Alexander, La Salle, Culkin). Pena is pretty good and Aiello is enjoyable even if I didn't totally understand his role in the context of any of my theories. It is Robbins' film though, and he helps us get to the core of the paranoia and fear that the film is trying to get across.

Overall this is a very good film if you enjoy alternative horror – creepy rather than gory. The plot may frustrate because it doesn't give you an easy answer – in fact the ending just makes the whole thing harder to understand and hold together. It is a strange film with images and such that stick with me after each viewing – not frightening so much as it is just a little unnerving. The sense of paranoia and/or the descent into hell is well delivered and the mystery of the plot is enough to bring you back more than once. Not a perfect film, but many of its flaws are also some of its strengths.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Superb film in every way
woltjer413 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have seen this movie several times and will see it several more times. It is one of the few DVD's I own. It is a mesmerizing, dark, reality twisting look into madness; a constantly shifting discourse on what is real; a gut wrenching foray into the effects of tampering with the human mind to create more effective soldiers. This film, though not easy to watch is one of the most riveting, compelling, challenging films I have ever seen. And to top it all off, the last 2 minutes of the film turn the story on its head in a way that could not have been predicted.

Throughout this film I was asking, which of the "realities" that Singer is living is the real one? Each one is convincing, and shifts you out of your previous interpretation in a most convincing way. And then again, it shifts back convincing you once again that the previous reality was the illusion. His final meeting with his young son (Macauley Caulkin) is wrenchingly beautiful and brings a measure of peace to a film that unrelentingly shocks, jars, and assaults you. And then the final scene, The,"Oh my God, what does this mean" moment compels a second, third and fourth watching. This film is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. If you love "You've Got Mail" you'll hate this. But for a movie that will make you think, make you ponder the meaning of life, challenge you to grapple with "reality" there are few finer cinematic experiences.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Simply Amazing!!! A lot more simple than it seems Very underrated
Mustangjp11 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of people don't like this movie because they believe it's too hard to understand. However, it pretty straight forward, it's simply a representation of what someones goes through before dying, and i believe quite strongly that it's pretty close to that. The whole movie is just a big nightmare and a mental fight for survival. There is many references to death throughout the movie. Have you ever had a dream where somebody you barely know was suddenly close to you, and in your dream it seems like you've known him forever, for example your cousin's friend might suddenly be your brother and seems like he's always been. That's what happens to Jacob's with with his girlfriend. It might seems that the movie skips from one point to another but don't all dreams do exactly that. If you have something bothering you, you might dream of it at night. Jacob's concern was his survival, The movie is simply a representation of dreams. You can relate to Jacob's mental struggles through your dreams. This movie is very underrated, I believe it is one of the best motion picture every created, it's very original, and it leaves you thinking for days, the author is extremely clever!! Almost flawless in my opinion, 10 out of 10!!
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Litmus Test
peacebst28 February 2001
Warning: Spoilers

Every once in a while, there comes along a movie that can split the public right down the middle. Jacob's Ladder has that characteristic. Well, actually that isn't true, because I think a clear majority of the people would not enjoy this film. It is horribly depressing (which turns off some), has a confusing and intentionally ambiguous plot-line (which turns off some more), it is dark and moody (which turns off even more), and it has an ending that some people just don't get. Even though, unlike the Sixth Sense (which it is often now compared to), it blatantly and explicitly tells the audience through characters such as the Evil Doctor (not the chiropracter) and the black palm reader at the party, what is happening.

They both tell him in no uncertain terms: you're dead. Yet because of their characters, the latter being too amicable and the former being too hostile, the main character, and the audience, just can't believe them. Yes, the movie is disturbing, but to those that follow it right up to the end, watching not only the political and social comments the movie makes along the way, which are actually the weaker messages, but also the mystical insight the movie has to offer in its' conclusion, this movie simply could not be any better.

This movie is like anchovies, most people just can't stand them, but to those who do, nothing else comes close. To some, this film is a masterpiece of visual, mental, and mystical entertainment. This final aspect, mysticism, is only compounded by how rare this is in movies today. Don't get me wrong, I thought Sixth Sense was a superb movie, but it does not try to tackle anything nearly as profound as Jacob's Ladder. This probably explains the Sixth Sense's broader appeal. Jacob's Ladder not only makes exceedingly deep statements about death and the afterlife, but about the nature of Good and Evil and the roles that they play in that afterlife.

The "demons" in this movie turn out to be Jacob's friends, the ones who are trying to get Jacob to realize the truth. "You've been killed, don't you remember?" the "Evil Doctor" tells him just before the wonderfully symbolic action of trying to make an injection into his brain. He protests and denies the notion of being dead, to which the doctor simply responds, "What are you doing here then?" Jacob is reduced to tears as he meekly replies, "I don't know." When the needle is brought to his forehead, Jacob screams. He cannot accept it in mind or body, and he views his tormentors as the enemy.

In the end, it isn't the government conspiracists, his girlfriend, or even his own platoon, that Jacob is fighting. He is fighting with his own mortality in a struggle he cannot win, because the battle is already over. The movie unashamedly and bluntly delves into metaphysical morality with so many symbolic references and ruthless techniques that it becomes a roller-coaster that can overwhelm some and simply nauseate others.

To me: it was, and still is, after the umpteenth viewing, a psychological, visual, and moral feast. A true classic.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews