Rated: R Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 5, 2005 Released by: Warner Brothers
There’s a nicely calibrated tension in The Jacket starring a wiry Adrien Brody even if its pace often languishes and the storytelling is not always cohesive. It may very well prompt post-screening discussions as we’re inside the blurred mind of Brody’s added protagonist Jack Starks, echoed by the film’s harsh score.
Life and death deals Starks some blows as the Gulf War soldier is shot in the head by a little boy. Starks says “I was 27 the first time I died.” He ends up in a hospital, receives a bronze star and a one-way ticket back to Vermont.
Then John Maybury’s mind bender, sometimes flashy vision has Jack wandering down a snowy road months later and meeting a drunken mother (Kelly Lynch) shaking her little girl, Jackie, then a good Samaritan gets an ominous ride from a stranger.
More time elapses with Jack’s memory not the same since the war and, being accused of a state trooper’s death, is sent to an asylum for the criminally insane.
The amnesiac is under the auspices of one Dr. Becker, acted with feelings of suffering by Kris Kristofferson. He packs peoples like Starks into a morgue drawer like a sack of potatoes after injecting them with dugs and strapping them into a straitjacket. The purpose of it all is for the patient to deal with their grave actions.
The drawer for Jack is a portal to his future as Maybury lets The Jacket be a kind of genre hybrid. Safe to say, the future isn’t that bright. There’ll be a chance to affect fate and he notices Jackie as time hasn’t affected the aging process at all. Brody has a decent role to chew on after his Academy Award performance in The Pianist that allows him to be saintly and sick at the same time in a film that, at times, can be claustrophobic and atmospherically frenzied in its wistful nature.
The director works in hyper kinetic overtones with his production staff to reach an audience’s synapses with more cerebral dexterity than something similar like The Butterfly Effect. Brody has some decent moments with Keira Knightley as the disillusioned Jackie, playing against her more fanciful parts in Pirates of the Caribbean and King Arthur. She does well as an addicted teen perilously prone to be like her mother. And Jennifer Jason Leigh (In The Cut) endows a doctor with a fair amount of moral complexity.
In moving from 1992 to 2007, The Jacket plays frightfully with reality though in measured doses and its heightened edginess may be part of its misgivings. It has some mesmerizing strands in a clock-ticking manner that lets us in to Jack’s psychedelic delirium. Even though Brody is capable of making us feel his shock, there’s a struggle between what assaults the mind and what can ultimately help heal it.