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Jacob's Ladder (1990)

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

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3 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Jacob
... Jezzie
... Louis
... Michael
... Paul
... Geary
... Sarah
... Frank
... George
... Doug
Anthony Alessandro ... Rod
... Jerry
... Elsa
... Hospital Receptionist
Doug Barron ... Group Leader
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

2 November 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dante's Inferno  »

Filming Locations:

 »

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Box Office

Budget:

$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,500,760, 4 November 1990, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$26,118,851
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to the original script, after Jacob is nearly run over by the subway train, a sequence involving a man being raped in the subway station mens bathroom was supposed to occur. It was filmed but deleted from the final cut (parts of the scene can be seen in the Making-Of featurette Building 'Jacob's Ladder' (1990)). Ving Rhames went on to star in Pulp Fiction (1994). Incidentally he played a man who was raped in that film. See more »

Goofs

The close-up shot of the license of the taxi Jacob takes to his old apartment building in a deleted scene reveals the license is set to expire on May 31, 1972. The very next shot contains a "Nixon Now" pin, the slogan of which was not used until president Richard M. Nixon's re-election campaign in 1976. (This anachronism may be intentional, given the absence of other relevant information in these back-to-back shots.) See more »

Quotes

Army Officer: Mr. Singer. What an appropriate name for a man who can't keep his mouth shut.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Referenced in Tristan (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

MY THANG
Written by James Brown (as J. Brown)
Published by Unichappell Music (BMI)
Performed by James Brown
Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
More than a movie
5 July 2008 | by See all my reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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