The Jacket

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating:R for Violence, Nudity, and Vomiting
Starring: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson
Directed By: John Maybury

Final Grade:

Unlike most time-bending mind trips of late (I’m thinking of you, Donnie Darko and The Butterfly Effect), The Jacket seems to be strangely grounded in believability. I’m not sure why this film seems so much easier to accept than its genre peers, but I do know it’s easily the most accessible film of this sort I’ve seen in recent memory.

The film centers around Jack Starks (Adrien Brody), a Gulf War vet who’s graduated to roaming the countryside (with retrograde amnesia, a fact that oddly is never fully a part of the story) in late 1992. He meets and helps a stranded little girl and her inebriated mother, and is rewarded by being picked up soon after by a passing motorist. Unfortunately it seems this motorist is of ill repute, and a shoot-out with a cop ensues. When the criminal flees, and Jack is left with a dead cop, no one believes the motorist ever existed.

No one believes Jack is sane either, so he’s sent away to a decidedly unpleasant institution in the middle of the Vermont wilderness, where he meets two doctors. Dr. Lorenson (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is kind, yet suspicious of Jack, while Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson) is the opposite. Dr. Becker’s also testing a new method of treatment, and finds Jack to be a perfect guinea pig. And that’s where the titular restraint comes in.

It seems like I should be more speculative about a procedure in which a mixture of drugs, an old straight jacket, and a morgue-ish drawer transport you to the year 2007 and allow you to have sex with Keira Knightley, but I’m not. The Jacket never seems to give us any reason to stop and think “Wait a minute, how the hell could that ever happen?”, keeping its heels firmly dug into a realistic setting. And unlike other films in which people jump through time due to freak occurrences, the terror that is claustrophobia seems a perfect medium for the brain to do whatever it wants, giving the film a “free pass” in my eyes.

Sure, there are many questions to be answered, and if the viewer stops and thinks long and hard about the events that unfold, I’m sure they’ll want those answers. Credit must be given to the screenplay, which keeps the philosophical questions at bay, and keeps us attached more to the characters than the plot devices. This is helped even more by some great acting by nearly all involved and solid direction, leaving the film as a surprisingly satisfying take on the events that occur in our lives and how and why they come to pass.

The end result is a film that shows us a great vision of how there are things in life we can and can’t control, and how people can be affected forever by others in even the slightest of ways. If the viewer can avoid thinking about the scientific aspects of the film (and can get past the horrible advertising campaign) they’ll probably find a thought provoking drama that’ll stick with them for a while after they see it. The Jacket might not be a great film, but it’s much better than most films with similar premises are used to being, and might be the first can’t miss film of 2005.

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