Warner Bros. // 2004 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 18th, 2005
"When you're dead, the one thing you want is to come back." -- Jack Starks
Jack Starks (Adrien Brody, The Pianist) is an ex-soldier from the early '90s Desert Storm war. During the conflict Jack was shot in the head, but miraculously survived. Flash-forward a year later -- Jack is hitchhiking out on the highway when he comes across a drunken woman, Jean (Kelly Lynch, Curley Sue) and her young daughter, Jackie (Laura Marano), parked on the side of a country road with car troubles. Jack helps them but is quickly sent on his way by the irate, inebriated Jean. Later Jack meets another driver who offers him a ride, which turns out to be disastrous. The driver is pulled over by the police and shoots the officer, leaving Jack unconscious and framed for the officer's murder.
An amnesiac, Jack is sent to Alpine Grove, a mental facility where he is subjected to bizarre rehabilitation rituals by the head doctor, Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson, Blade: Trinity), that include locking him up inside of a dirty straightjacket and sliding him inside of a morgue drawer. It's inside this drawer that Jack is able to time-travel (in his mind) fifteen years or so into the future where he once again meets the little girl by the side of the road, this time all grown up (played by Keira Knightley, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and living a desolate, destructive life. With Jackie's help Jack begins to piece together his muddled and puzzling past and his eventual demise, which is to take place in only a few short days.
Nothing is more disappointing than watching a film you had high hopes for spiral out of control like a truck that's lost its brake fluid. The Jacket had promise: Its theme of time travel and terror seemed to make instant B-movie fodder. When the trailer was released in theaters it looked like a mind-bending thrill ride. In fact, it looked like something different, a rarity in Hollywood. Well, The Jacket certainly is different -- so different, in fact, that it ends up working against itself.
The problem with The Jacket (please be aware that there are SPOILERS ahead) is that the time travel elements all take place inside the head of the protagonist. This brings up a few pertinent questions: Are his visions real? How can he see the future if he doesn't even know what his past is? And, most importantly, why can he only see the future when he's strapped into a dingy straightjacket and shoved inside of a morgue locker? These questions are disturbing to me because I'm such a fan of the time travel premise. When done well, it can make for great entertainment. When done sloppily, well, you get something like The Jacket.
I realize that with time travel and science fiction you often have to take things at face value -- too many questions and you're liable to go nutty trying to figure it all out. Paradoxes abound. However, if you are going to utilize the idea of time travel, there needs to be plausibility. In Robert Zemeckis's Back to the Future trilogy, Doc Brown built a time machine that, while not realistic, at least looked doable. In The Jacket we're given an article of clothing and a drawer. I don't know about you, but the last time I slipped on an old winter coat and started hanging out in my cubbyhole I was ten and played with G.I. Joe dolls.
Even though The Jacket never engaged me in its bizarre story, I will admit that I enjoyed the performances by Adrian Brody, Keira Knightley and Kris Kristofferson. Uniformly, all of the performances are well above average. Adrian Brody is an actor whose face can show a million emotions. He is the perfect choice for Jack Starks. Though I find Keira Knightley a bit too model-esque to be a burned-out trailer girl, she plays the part to the best of her abilities. One of the most overlooked actors working in Hollywood today, Kris Kristofferson is chilling as Jack's sadistic (at least I think he's supposed to be sadistic) psychiatrist -- grizzled, grumbling and terrifying.
In the end The Jacket -- directed with above average style if not substance by UK director John Maybury -- loses steam and ends up with a conclusion that may leave some scratching their heads. Is the film an allegory? Is it symbolic of some deeper meaning? You've got me; I guess that's left up to the viewer. I didn't hate this movie, but I certainly wish it would have lived up to its initial promise.
The Jacket is presented in a very attractive 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Warner has once again come through with a very good transfer. The colors are solid and well defined -- there are lots of cool blues and disturbing blacks. The overall look of the transfer is near perfect, save for a few instances where the picture looks slightly grainy and distorted.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. There is a nice array of sound separation in this mix -- there are many directional effects and background noises to be heard here. The mix is atmospheric and appropriate. Also included on this disc is a French 5.1 Dolby mix, as well as English, Spanish and French subtitles.
The Jacket isn't packed with extra features, though it does include a
few supplements fans can chew on. There are two featurettes ("The Jacket:
Project History and Deleted Scenes" and "The Look of The Jacket: The
Special Effects") that focus on how the project came into being, what the
director thought of the script, the special effects work in the film, as well as
a few deleted scenes and alternate endings (provided in the first featurette).
Also included on this disc is a theatrical trailer for the film.
Review content copyright © 2005 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "The Jacket: Project History and Deleted Scenes" Featurette
* "The Look of The Jacket: The Special Effects" Featurette
* Theatrical Trailer