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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) is pronounced dead during the Gulf War.
Moments later, he shows signs of life again. He's discharged and tries
to get back to his normal life in Vermont. But he had a severe head
injury, he had amnesia for awhile, and he has periodic blackouts and
maybe hallucinations. When he winds up being blamed for a serious
crime, he is sent to a psychiatric prison. While there, he is subjected
to a bizarre treatment involving a straightjacket. Starks begins to
learn dark secrets about the hospital and surprising truths about his
life. Can he emerge from his predicament unscathed?
This is a high concept film--it's basically Jacob's Ladder (1990) meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975), with touches of similar "rubber reality" and mental institution flicks thrown in for good measure--a dash of Donnie Darko (2001), a touch of 12 Monkeys (1995), and so on. That it resembles a high concept amalgamation of modern films may be more surprising in light of the fact that the basic idea is adapted from a 1915 Jack London novel, The Star Rover, which was published as The Jacket in the UK.
It might also be surprising to some readers that I'm giving a film that is so strongly derivative a 10. But I don't rate higher or lower based on originality or a lack of the same. To me, what matters is how well the film works, how well it is constructed for its ambitions. The Jacket is a fine piece of art.
The performances are excellent. Adrien Brody in particular is amazing. His turns in what amounts to an "isolation chamber" are breathtaking. All of the principal actors, including Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Laura Marano and Kelly Lynch, produce finely nuanced work. The characterizations are demanding, as The Jacket requires them to play multiple realities, with different knowledge, relationships and attitudes to each other in most of the major scenes.
But as good as the performances are, what really stands out is the direction. This is the first John Maybury film I've seen, and if it's any indication of his other work, I can't wait to see more. His direction is constantly inventive and challenging. For example, The Jacket begins with grainy war footage like the typical CNN almost "real-time" footage that was so popular during Operation Desert Storm. Maybury cuts it to enhance the chaos of war. When he moves to a more "normal" technique, he still exhibits a strong but subtle and unique touch.
He is fond of unusual close-ups, frequently filling the screen with a character's mouth, eye, one side of their face from the cheek up, and so on. He also employs a lot of intriguing and bizarre inserts, and frequently constructs scenes with unusual pacing, often slower than other modern directors, or at least pulled like taffy on certain beats. But it's always right for a particular scene. The Jacket has a complex timeline structure that could easily fall apart in lesser hands; Maybury keeps the film easily coherent, and provides just the right amount of clues to the rubber reality aspects at just the right time. Echoing the unusual, contemplative, directorial temporal manipulations is a fine score (as if we could expect anything else) from Brian Eno.
As a rubber reality film, it's important to not watch The Jacket expecting a neat, linear, tightly-wrapped and transparent plot. As is typical for the genre, multiple interpretations are encouraged, with little pushes and prods to help along audiences who might be reluctant to embrace hermeneutics. For example, in one scene, a character says, "We're all dead". And for less overt subtexts, it's worthwhile to note how Jack often tends to be handled throughout the film more like a slab of meat. But whatever your interpretation, an important and relatively clear subtext is that of using one's life from this point forward to the best of one's ability to effect the kind of world one would like to see. Maybury makes sure to convey a disbelief in strong determinism, although freedom from fate in the film comes at a cost, and it may not be able to completely circumvent destiny.
Like Renny Harlin's version of The Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), The Jacket is really a "difficult" film that is likely to be approached with inappropriately philistine expectations that lead to complaints that it is boring or in some other way inadequate, pointless or non-entertaining. It deserves a more serious look than that. This is an excellent film.
I just finished the movie and it really is a great piece of work. No
futuristic crap mixed up though you might expect it. Miss Knightley
really does a great job playing the part, though her role seems to have
been kept a bit too far in the background.
The whole idea of changing the future has been brought up before, but this time instead of changing the future by altering the past it brings new perspective by altering the present by adding new info from the future. At first it reminded me very much of Butterfly Effect. If you like that one, you'll love this one.
It also shines new light on the subject whether or not you can change your own destiny which hasn't been brought up in a while.
It surely is a "must-see".
"The Jacket" has gotten some bad press because the plot has a lot of
holes in it, but if you suspend belief and just enjoy the movie, it is
a lot of fun.
Any film that involves time travel requires that you suspend belief, and "The Jacket" is no different. What makes "The Jacket" better than most sci-fi thrillers is the production quality. The scenes in the hospital are done in muted colors which look like hand painted black and white. The scenes in the future are done in super saturated colors. I thought the super close-ups added to the disorientation and claustrophobia of the protagonist.
The acting is first rate. Adrien Brody is convincingly haunted. Kiera Knightly does an acceptable American accent.
Fans of "The Twilight Zone" should like this one. It is rated "R" for language, nudity, sex, violence, and disturbing images in a mental hospital; so you are getting your money's worth. If you like good production quality and want to go for a thrill ride, check this one out.
Every so often there's a movie that's so hard to describe that it's to
picture whether it's your type of movie or not. The Jacket melds about
five different genres without falling firmly into any of them. Even to
describe it as an 'alternative reality' movie could put off those who
think, "Oh, no, not another sci-fi". I wouldn't describe it as sci-fi.
There is a love story, but I wouldn't call it that. There's some pretty
disturbing shots and dizzying camera work but it's not really a horror
film. What can you rely on? A stellar cast for starters: Adrien Brody,
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson. All needed
as the story is not exactly flawless, but the combined
characterisations and sheer ingenuity keep you in suspense and mostly
make you want to forgive any shortcomings in this rather ambitious
If you like stories nice and simple, stay away. If you like a challenge, The Jacket might fill the bill. It's not quite such a headbanging puzzle as Mulholland Drive, and it doesn't have the cutesiness of Donnie Darko, but it is in the realm of dark, weird and ultimately rather moving experimental film.
Brody is Mr quite nice guy Jack Starks, apparently shot dead at point blank range in the Gulf War - but hang on a minute, his eyelids blink before they pronounce him dead and he recovers - with amnesia but otherwise OK - then he gets committed to an asylum for the criminally insane fro a murder he didn't do, and we're talking 1990s when some pretty strange experimental psychotherapy went on behind closed doors. Enter the old doctor, played by Kris Kristofferson, who looks like he's had one too many acid trips and survived and believes he can think up new treatments for nutters like Jack Starks. During some pretty unconventional (not say unethical by today's standards) solitary 'treatment', Starks sees himself in 2007. The treatment is a combination of drugs and sensory deprivation - a sort of Neanderthal NLP the hard way. Each time he is locked up in 'The Jacket', Starks' projected timeline lets him interact with other characters in his dilemma. It gets continuingly creepier and the tension builds to an ending that leaves you shocked, horrified and filled with warmth at the same time.
I was fortunate enough to see this at Sundance on opening night and I
thought it was absolutely BRILLIANT. Adrian Brody was incredible and I
thought it was directed almost flawlessly. I highly recommend it.
The film really makes you think and I was disappointed not to be able to ask questions I had during the Q&A which followed the premiere. I think there are loads of things hidden in this film which you would have to see several times to catch. That is my idea of outstanding film making.
I could have done without the nudity which I saw no reason for. I think a love scene is much more erotic when you don't see anything. Body parts don't need to be shown. Most of us have decent imaginations. :-)
Rented this movie, and I have to say, its one of the best films I have
seen in along time. It's a complex story line, where paying attention
is key, probably makes even more sense the second time around. I almost
teared up at the end, not 'cause it was sad, but because it was
beautiful, and compelling, a must see movie. You may think this movie
won't be good, but don't brush it off, 'cause it's officially on my top
5 favorite movies list.
Adrien Brody delivers a awesome performance worthy of an Emmy. If there is one movie you should rent this year, it's The Jacket.
First off, this film is not for everyone. It does, however, seem to
delineate an emerging and exciting trend in contemporary film making
whereby directors are becoming increasingly enamored with these sorts
of dark, brooding, almost dreamscape-like and melodramatic thrillers
which defy archetypal and conventional narrative formats. Think of the
"The Machinist" and work your way backwards to "Vanilla Sky", or even
as far back as 1990's "Jacob's Ladder" as one other reviewer accurately
To this end, "The Jacket" represents the apotheosis of this rising genre, and is both an artistic psychological thriller, as well as what you might call a metaphysical tragedy, and easily envelopes the viewer into its morose and sterile world replete with dreary snow scapes, perpetual grey skies and faces, muted and washed out colours, institutional isolation, and the angst of working class loners. The film's imagery and the pace of the story and script immediately command one's attention from the outset and the film is unrelenting in both its tension and gumption. Because of this, despite the story's meandering timeline and lack of feasible explanations for the protagonist's "visions", the viewer is still to an extent able to believe what they're seeing. Because the film takes itself so seriously, and actually pulls it off, the viewer then buying into the fantasy of the story becomes far more palatable than it does in other misguided attempts at this same sort of risky and artsy storytelling ie: "The Butterfly Effect".
This is an ambitious film which taps into both the romanticism and pain of our dreams and our memories, and how they both act upon us, and cause us to act upon them. It examines what is real versus perceived, the fragility of life, how each persons's life effects others, even passing strangers, and the sovereignty of the self and the mind. The film features outstanding performances from just about everyone on screen, particularly Brody as the hapless and tortured Jack Starks, and Kristofferson as the morally ambiguous and equally tortured Dr. Becker.
Despite the big names on the marquee, however, this, as previously mentioned, is not a cut and dry "popcorn flick" and will leave many people bewildered. It is for these people that the "Butterfly Effect" was made first, and now with them out of the way, the timing for a film of this caliber which deals with these issues properly is appropriate. "The Jacket" is a trippy and entertaining yet still very intelligent film which asks only that you check your preconceptions and logical rectitude at the door. By doing so, you'll find the imagination of this film is fact more real than you might have expected.
Adrian Brody deserves at least, an academy award nomination for his performance in this film. Sadly I fear this film won't be recognized because of it improper marketing and poor performance in the theaters. This film was promoted as a horror film, just look at the tag- line, "Terror has a new name!" What kind of crap is that? Anyway I don't think he will be recognized for this role even though I believe he should. Also, Kiera did a stunning job! I was totally surprised by her performance as well. I mean she hasn't been terrible in her past films, just no where near as deep or real as her role in this film. All in all I really enjoyed this film. The direction, cinematography, compositing (effects in his eyes) and Editing were superb. I will watch this one again and I would recommend it any day.
Just saw this at an advance screening. I liked it. Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley carry this film well. Although I have to admit that i was in the front row and watching a cinemascope film like that has one turning their head from left to right a lot. I recommend the star rover novel to read to anyone who likes this film. It was published in 1913, one of londons last books. it dealt with how the prison system at the time would strap people in straitjackets so tight that it would cause damage. The hero of the book comes to desire the tightening of the straps to the point where the guards have not seen, in order for him to more spiritually transcend his mind and soul into another life. He jaunts into other existences, all past, ie napoleon battle, viking conquest, to free his mind from the pain. The Jacket takes this idea in a way where the hero goes to a place that is involved in the plot running in the present.
Literlly a TEN! 2 thumbs WAY up! This was an uplifting, thoughtful, mind thriller! It makes you really think. This is not scary though. The romance and chemistry between "Jack Starks"(Adrien Brody) and "Jackie Price" (Kiera Knightly) was perfectly amazing! Adrian Brody has a way of drawing you in through his eyes and actions in all his films. I nearly cried at the end (Not saying if it's happy or sad) and I was just amazed at how it basically showed that life has meaning, and second chances ARE possible. Like he says in the movie: "I think we live through certain things, just to say that we actually did live through them. Not anyone else, but you." Amazing and lovely! I URGE you to see it and I was angry that it wasn't int heaters for long. By the way, I'm gonna marry that man! Hehe. --Natalie R.L.
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