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Overall Rating
2.99

Awesome: 12.94%
Worth A Look: 14.12%
Average35.29%
Pretty Bad: 34.12%
Total Crap: 3.53%

8 reviews, 37 user ratings


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Jacket, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Intriguing, but not intriguing enough."
3 stars

I have seen the new mind-bending drama “The Jacket” twice now and I am perfectly willing to admit that I still don’t quite understand most of what goes on during its 100 minutes. Normally, this isn’t a bad thing in my book; I like it when a film leaves itself open to interpretation instead of dumbing things down so that everything wraps up neatly. The problem with the film is that I don’t think that any of the people connected with the film have any clear idea of what is going on either. The result is a frustrating experience in wheel-spinning that is just intriguing enough to keep you sort of interested throughout, but not intriguing enough to keep you from feeling fairly disappointed when the end credits roll.

This is the kind of film where even the most innocuous plot tidbit could be considered a spoiler, so be warned. Adrien Brody stars as Jack Starks, a soldier in the first Gulf War who, as the film opens in 1991, is shot in the head in combat by a kid. Starks is pronounced dead on an operating table but comes back to life with severe amnesia. A year later, he is discharged and, while walking down a lonely, he comes across Jackie (Laura Marano), a young girl stranded with her stoned mother (Kelly Lynch) in a stalled truck. Jack fixes their truck and gives Jackie his dog tags as a gift before Mom wakes up and, misunderstanding the situation, drives off in a huff. Later, Starks is picked up by a stranger (Brad Renfro) and when they get pulled over, the stranger kills the cop and Starks is knocked unconscious. Starks is tried for the murder and since he cannot prove the existence of Jackie, her mom or the real killer, he is declared not guilty by reason of insanity and shipped off to a mental hospital.

There, he becomes the unwilling patient/subject of Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson), who is conducting experiments in behavior modification in which he is injected with a mysterious serum, placed in a straight-jacket and hidden in a morgue drawer. During one of these “treatments”, he wakes up outside of a grungy diner on Christmas Eve, where a young woman (Keira Knightley) takes pity on him and brings him home out of the cold. While looking around, he discovers to his shock that the year is 2007 and that the girl is the now-grown Jackie. When he tries to convince her who he is, she informs him that it is impossible, Jack Starks died on New Year’s Day, 1993–less than a week from when he entered the hospital.

Some people may think that I have already given away far too much of the plot but I assure you that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say, Starks finds himself jerking back and forth between 1992 and 2007 as he tries to piece together what happened (or what is about to happen to him) using his knowledge of the past to convince Jackie that he is who he says and his knowledge of what is going to happen in the future (such as his impending death) to attempt to convince another doctor (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that he is telling the truth–this leads to such moments as the future-era Starks encountering the old morgue drawer and surmising that he might actually be in there in violation of all the rules of the time-space continuum. Of course, there is always the possibility that everything might just be the delusions of a mental patient in 1992 or the final fantasies of a soldier dying in 1991.

Like such recent films as “Donnie Darko” and “The Butterfly Effect,” “The Jacket” is one of those stories that jerks its characters around through different levels of reality in scenes where every element–no matter how seemingly innocuous–is obviously fraught with portent and meaning; at times, they feel as if they have been designed solely to serve as subjects for especially obtuse grad-school thesis papers. The difference between “The Jacket” and those other titles is that while I often found myself perplexed by the convolutions of those earlier films, they always maintained a certain internal logic and all of the details more or less began to add up to something. “The Jacket,” on the other hand, never demonstrates that kind of logic; the various plot details pile up instead of adding up and there are times when it seems as if even director John Maybury and writer Massy Tadjedin are at a loss to understand the story they are telling. I suspect that if someone were to attempt to do a flow chart of the narrative thread of the film, it would most likely resemble a circle in which all the answers are on the inside while viewers are stuck on the outside with no way of getting in for themselves.

Too often, they throw in added complications that raise more questions than they are prepared to answer. Case in point: one subplot involves the Jennifer Jason Leigh character treating a young child who appears to be severely autistic and who receives advice from the future Jack that helps her in dealing with him. Two problems. First, the character of the boy, who never formally meets Starks, seems to exist only to serve as a way of proving to Leigh the veracity of Starks’s claims; in a film already complicated enough, a simpler way of proving this should have been found. More importantly, it appears that the child is being played by the same young actor who also portrayed the child who shot Starks in the opening scenes. This would seem to be a not insignificant detail, but the film brings it up and then never bothers to deal with it.

Despite a throughly impenetrable screenplay, “The Jacket” somehow managed to attract a fairly impressive cast. Perhaps all of them had previously turned down “Donnie Darko” a few years ago, saw it become a cult sensation and resolved to do the next murky and inexplicable screenplay that was offered to them. (The exception to this is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who takes to murky and inexplicable screenplays like a duck to water.) Under the circumstances, they all do adequate work here but they seem too busy trying to keep their heads above the narrative waters to do much more than that.

30 years ago, “The Jacket” would have been a natural for the midnight-movie circuit, where audiences could debate its complexities long into the night. Under those circumstances, I might have responded a little better to the weirdo convolutions of the story. However, seen in the light of a more civilized hour, it eventually reveals itself to be kind of a mess–an occasionally intriguing mess with some nice things going for it (such as a haunting Brian Eno score and an interestingly desaturated look from cinematographer Peter Deming), but a mess all the same.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11258&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/04/05 15:51:31
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/06/09 Peter North I banged Keira Knightley with my straight-jacket on.... 3 stars
6/12/08 PAUL SHORTT THE TURGID, LURID HYBRID IS FINALLY MORE DONKEY THAN THOROUGHBRED 1 stars
4/07/08 Jack Sommersby The follow-through isn't as good as set-up, but it's still atmospheric and suspenseful. 4 stars
7/29/07 R.W. Welch Jumbled time-warp opus fails to entice. 3 stars
4/09/07 fools&#9835;gold I'll be >VERY< happy not watching it again. 2 stars
3/20/07 David Pollastrini Keira Knightley is hot! 3 stars
5/06/06 Carol Baker This movie is very confusing for a Supernatural movie 3 stars
5/06/06 alice B-O-R-I-N-G 1 stars
5/02/06 al i thought it was good it could of been made better but i still liked it alot 4 stars
4/22/06 Becky good, I love Adrien Brody... but it lulled in spots 4 stars
4/15/06 Steven Lewis Butterfly Effect without a reason. 3 stars
1/14/06 ALDO good story but its a shame it wasn't made better 3 stars
1/09/06 Frenzy Well played but could have been better 3 stars
1/04/06 jeffrey blake film that began promising but failed with delivery 3 stars
12/26/05 Zeitgeist One of the better of the recent slew of "reality bending" films 5 stars
10/23/05 Raul Valdez Original sounded premise but its not genious 4 stars
9/27/05 tatum Fantastic, loved every minute 5 stars
9/27/05 rafi Great movie ! 5 stars
9/02/05 larry i thought it was great. reminded me of Jacob's Ladder 4 stars
8/22/05 John Bale Barton Fink in The Cuckoos Nest - Just Brilliant - another Jacob's Ladder 5 stars
8/13/05 Kevin Reems Expecting something else maybe? Knowing nothing up front I thought it was great! 4 stars
8/11/05 Indrid Cold The MTVesque direction is not as annoying is it might be, but the plot sinks it. 3 stars
7/24/05 Stephen F. Diamond Great film! A model film in the post-quantum realm. 5 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler disturbing movie, filled with claustrophobia and nightmares. Adrien Brody is fantastic. 5 stars
6/26/05 rls Strange, moody, visual. Acting (in particular Brody) is first rate. 5 stars
6/23/05 Ryan Maybe the point is to suggest that pleople perpetuating torture on others create ghosts 5 stars
5/06/05 cher i thought all the while it's like a horror movie..well, i was disappointed. 2 stars
4/03/05 Eric failure as a brainteaser and an emotional experience 2 stars
3/19/05 Rachel Adrien -yes, this movie -NO 3 stars
3/13/05 Lynn Yikes! 3 stars
3/06/05 vural toprak 5 stars
3/06/05 jcjs i don't recall seeing her naked...maybe i blinked...great acting and stuff 5 stars
3/05/05 Buford They show Keira Knightley naked! 5 stars
3/01/05 Doug "the stud" willson I loved it. Nemo is a very cute fish 1 stars
2/16/05 tsvetelina linna 3 stars
1/29/05 keith james I WANT MY MONEY BACK! 2 stars
1/24/05 Polak Didn't know what it was trying to be - heavy suspension of disbelief required 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  04-Mar-2005 (R)
  DVD: 21-Jun-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  11-Aug-2005




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