Andy's Anachronisms - Time Travel Movie Reviews

The Jacket (2005)
Terror has a new name.

Directed by John Maybury
Written by Tom Bleecker, Marc Rocco, and Massy Tadjedin

The Basic Plot

A year after suffering a nearly fatal head wound in the first Gulf War, American soldier Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) finds himself wandering a wintry rural road in his native Vermont. There he comes across a mother and her 8 year old daughter whose truck has broken down. The mother, Jean (Kelly Lynch), is drunk and virtually oblivious to the aid Jack offers her and her daughter Jackie in getting their truck started.

Jack continues on his way and is eventually picked up by a stranger driving a station wagon headed to the Canadian border. The pair is later pulled over by a lone highway patrol man. Jack blacks out during the encounter and the movie cuts to Jack on trial for murdering the state trooper. His stress induced amnesia, aggravated by his head wound, leaves him unable to remember the events of the encounter well enough to defend himself on trial. Declared not guilty by reason of insanity, he is turned over to the state hospital in the care of Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson). The good doctor resorts to some very unorthodox treatment methods involving binding Starks in a straight jacket and placing him a morgue drawer for extended periods of time.

The episodes of sensory deprivation cause Starks to become unstuck in time. At first he flashes to the past and the incidents leading to his incarceration. Later episodes find him transported to the future where he encounters a grown Jackie (Keira Knightley) in the year 2007. While in the future Jack uncovers details of his own death in 1992, just days after the time he is coming from. With the aid of Jackie and a sympathetic Dr. Lorenson (Jenifer Jason Leigh), who is critical of Dr. Beckerís methods, he struggles to unravel the mystery of his death and save himself from Dr. Becker and the jacket.

The Analysis

If not for the performances of the principals involved The Jacket would barely rate a second look. While it evokes the atmosphere of some contemporary horror films there is little substance behind the poorly lit scenes. The plot itself is a reworking of other more substantive films most notably Gilliamís vastly superior time travel movie 12 Monkeys. To a lesser extent it also borrows from films like Slaughterhouse-Five and Altered States.

Written by novice screen writer Massy Tadjedin, I felt the story was considerably weakened by undefined motivations of Dr. Becker and the loose grounding of the story in the time frame of 1991 and 2007. Jack Starksí involvement in the Gulf War serves no purpose other than to set the scene for his near fatal head wound. Conceivably the story could take place in any 16 year window, say 1966 to 1982, without any significant impact on the story. Also unlike 12 Monkeysí plot driven time travel where the scientists have a purpose for sending their subject back in time, the time travel in The Jacket is an unintended side-effect of Dr. Beckerís treatment.

In Starks' trips to the future much of the knowledge he brings back to his own time seems to exist in some sort of closed loop. He receives knowledge in 2007 from Dr. Lorenson that he apparently gave to her in 1992 that he then goes back and gives her to complete the loop. Similarly Dr. Becker in 2007 is confronted by Jack Starks in an attempt to learn how he dies only to discover knowledge that will prove useful in 1992. This 'bootstrapping' provides the viewer with some headscratching moments, but little else.

Given the tone of the movie to this point, the ending of the movie may be too upbeat for some. Jack seems to have broken the cycle and saved Jackie and possibly himself from their earlier fate.

I enjoyed the film, but find it hard to recommend it when there is so much better time travel pictures out there.

©2005 - A. Taylor

Review Posted: 2005-07-03

Related Links:

Offical Site for The Jacket
Includes trailer for the movie on DVD, multimedia TV spots, buddy icons, wallpaper, and cast and crew information.

Internet Movie Database
The ever useful Internet Movie Database entry for The Jacket complete with cast info, plot summary, release dates, trivia etc.

Return to Film Review Index

Return to Andy's Anachronisms Home

You are visiting --