Ok, so what happens when you take the time traveling aspects of 12 Monkeys, mix in the time altering aspects of The Butterfly Effect, and then throw everything in the setting of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? You get a film that is almost as hard to follow as the cinematic recipe outlined above.
Oscar winner Adrien Brody stars as Jack Starks, a Gulf War veteran who ends up hitching a ride that not only changes his future but that of the other people he meets that fateful once upon a time. Things quickly go from bad to worse for Starks as in no time at all he finds himself sitting in court accused of murder and then hustled off to an insane asylum to be “rehabilitated.”
Ah, rehab! It never works very well in these films. A pill here, a group talk session there, more pills, and then whattaya know?!? You find yourself strapped into a torturous straight-jacket, shot up with some unknown concoction of drugs, laid down upon a cold slab, and shoved into an old morgue freezer. Alone. In the Dark. Unable to move. Silence and darkness can be a most disorienting and disturbing thing for a human being. For Jack Starks it ends up being that and more.
This is where The Jacket really kicks into gear. Director John Maybury masterfully uses the camera to exploit the kind of madness one would drift into if subjected to such treatment. Through a series of quick cuts and extremely tight shots, the audience is made to feel the type of claustrophobia our protagonist is going through. These are by far the most effective moments of the film and are worth the price of admission alone.
From there The Jacket becomes a not so unique time travel tale with Starks racing against time to alter the future he has seen while trying to save his own soul. It’s never once explained why or how Starks being placed in the jacket can enable him to traverse time. Astral Projection? Psychic Slingshot™? Who Knows! But Brody’s unnerving yet sympathetic performance is enough to make you look past the inconsistencies and flat out lapses in logic.
The rest of the cast seems to be just going through the motions of the film’s setup. Nothing really bad, but certainly nothing memorable either. The most fun to be had with The Jacket’s co-stars comes in the form of spotting One Day at a Time’s Mackenzie Phillips (or maybe it was the lead singer from The Black Crowes? Uncanny resemblence I tell ya!) doing her very best Nurse Ratched impersonation.
As a whole, the film ends up a mixed but mostly satisfying bag. As incoherent as it is enjoyable, The Jacket hits the marks that it set out to, yet leaves the audience a bit cold with its squeaky clean ending.
Note to Hollywood:
Things don’t always have to end up topped with a nice pretty red bow. Take some chances, and be as bold as the subject matter you are portraying.
Who am I kidding? They’ll never listen. Sigh.
The Jacket (2005)
Directed by John Maybury
Starring Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, and Jennifer Jason Leigh
3 out of 5