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Jacob's Ladder
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35 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

"Ascending the Celluloid Ladder"

9/10
Author: ramstar22 from Texas
4 April 2005

*** This review may contain 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.

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41 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant!

9/10
Author: George_Bush from Odense, Denmark
19 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILER ALERT

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

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39 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Anguishing, Intriguing, Original, Unique

9/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
7 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.

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20 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Here's A Film You Could Spend Hours Discussing

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
24 March 2006

*** This review may contain 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.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding Tale of Psychological Terror

10/10
Author: dnjjr from NYC
27 May 2006

*** This review may contain 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?

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

An imaginative and different horror; interesting enough for repeat viewings, with a great sense of paranoia and strange imagery (spoilers)

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
19 September 2004

*** This review may contain 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.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic Movie/One Problem

9/10
Author: robherd from United States
5 January 2006

*** This review may contain 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.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

It's a shame Lyne and Rubin didn't team up again...

10/10
Author: Bryan Way from United States
21 September 2005

*** This review may contain 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.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Great Film ***Spoilers here***

9/10
Author: mike62481
23 March 2004

*** This review may contain 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.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

An Excellent Movie Full of Symbolisms

10/10
Author: jcanettis from Athens, Greece
11 December 2003

*** This review may contain 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.

*** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD ***

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!

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