The Jacket (2005) / Drama-Mystery

MPAA Rated: R for violence, language, sexuality and nudity
Running Time: 102 min.

Cast: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daniel Craig, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro, Mackenzie Phillips, Laura Marano
Director: John Maybury
Screenplay: Massy Tadjedin
Review published March 9, 2005

After watching the very similarly plotted thriller, The I Inside, I was getting a strong déjà vu vibe from The Jacket, which may account for why I wasn’t as engaged with the end result as I should have been.  Both films feature a man dying, but coming back to life only to find himself in a hospital where strange events are happening.  Both films also include a “time travel” plot, whereby the protagonist keeps going back and forth between the future and the present, changing things in one to affect the outcome of the other.  Both are of the “head trip” variety, where little is explained, keeping you in the dark as to whether the hero is suffering delusions or is really imbued with the power to do things that are fantastic.  

Although I’m scoring both films the same, between the two movies, The Jacket is the superior film, so if you haven’t seen either, I’d recommend it over The I Inside, although I just can’t give it very high originality points for the fact that it’s been done before.  To its credit, it isn’t a rip-off, as it is sufficiently different thematically.  It is also not just an excuse to play games with your mind; it does seem like a major setup for a twist ending, but its themes run far deeper than esoteric twists and turns for the sake of its own need to be clever. 

Adrien Brody (The Village, The Pianist) stars as Jack Starks, a veteran of the Gulf War who was once presumed dead, who returns home to Vermont still reeling from his experience and a bout with amnesia.  One day he is hitching a ride when suddenly he finds himself taking the rap for a murder attempt on a police officer that pulled their vehicle over.  Due to his traumatic war experience and blackouts, he is placed in a mental facility, and subjected to a new form of treatment where he is drugged and placed in a morgue-like drawer, where he begins to have visions of a life about 15 years in the future.  He meets a woman (Knightley, Love Actually) he once knew as a young girl, striking up an instant friendship, and tries to put together the pieces as to how and why he is where he is, and when.

The Jacket offers fine performances and an interesting premise, but outside of this, it never reaches a level of satisfaction to make it worthwhile as a whole.  It does benefit from being ambiguous as to its meaning, and allowing us to draw our own conclusions as to what the real story is  Is he really able to travel between times, or is Jack already dead?  Is he suffering from hallucinations induced by the drugs and/or isolation?   The ultimate answers to these questions are enough to keep you reeled in to the story, but the sloth-like pace and inability to make something more tangible does keep The Jacket in the category of a flawed film with good moments, meant for more particular tastes.

The Jacket will have its audience, but such a philosophical premise and ponderous delivery will keep its appeal to a very small fraction of viewers.  If you like ambiguous stories where the meanings aren’t always clear, you might want to give it a shot.  However, for those who like their seeds of investment to finally bear fruit, The Jacket titillates and frustrates in almost equal proportions.

Qwipster's rating:

©2005 Vince Leo