The Jacket (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Toby White and Neils Hesse

Starring: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: John Maybury

Review by Toby White

There’s something to be said for arriving late to a film. Since you’ve no choice of where to sit, it can dictate how you see it. Literally. In the case of THE JACKET (fear not those seeking a thorough review, I checked, I didn’t miss anything), given the cinema’s design, I had to slink into a seat at the very front. And about ten minutes in all hell broke loose on my senses, which can only have aided the efficacy of the film’s intent. I’ll explain.

Adrien Brody plays Jack Starks, a Gulf War veteran incarcerated in a mental institution for the murder of a policeman on the grounds of insanity. But he can’t remember doing it. It’s during bouts of unconventional treatment – he’s strapped into a straight jacket and bolted into a corpse cooler in the asylum’s morgue – from the institution’s director Dr Becker (Kristofferson) that he begins to “see” things about the future of those around him. And its these moments when he’s in “the jacket” that you’re there with him…with the dark closing in, just catching the limited outline of his features as your eyes adjust…before you’re bombarded with a cacophony of visceral images and sounds throwing you into his inner thoughts. Imagine that ten feet from a 10×60 cinema screen. I couldn’t help but react.

But more about the film… There’s a cast that’s full of surprises, almost like a line-up of Where-have-they-been’s. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the sympathetic doctor, Daniel Craig as Brody’s nervous compulsive companion, as well as turns from Brad Renfro, Kelly Lynch and, oddly placed but wonderfully played, a bit part from Steven Mackintosh. In fact, all the cast turn out stellar performances, dare I say it, apart from Keira Knightley, who seems more intent on hamming it up and working that forced open-mouthed pout she seems to have trademarked. Structurally, it’s fun. Between bouts of cloying, coldly shot claustrophobia in the asylum, there are brooding, warm tones for the flash-forwards all at distinct changes of pace. In fact it feels as though you’re on a boat riding a huge Atlantic swell (forgive me, I’ve gone a bit overboard on the metaphors in this review). Apart from a token misplaced sex scene the pace of it and the slow delivery of answers to the “Where’s this going?” questions make it all rather intriguing. No wonder the likes of Soderbergh and Clooney jumped in to exec produce.

Basically, if you don’t know much about this film ignore tenuous references to JACOB’S LADDER (it’s not), its more like…MEMENTO. Now if that’s got you intrigued, go and see it and you’ll see what I mean.

4 out of 6 stars

Review by Neils Hesse

Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) has just survived almost certain death compliments of a gunshot wound to the head inflicted on him by a young boy, you see Jack was a soldier in the Gulf War. Suffering from a bad case of amnesia, he returns home to Vermont. When he is accused of murder he is committed to a mental hospital due to his hazy mental state under an unorthodox doctor, Dr Becker (Kris Kristofferson). Dr Becker’s idea of treatment is to strap his patients into a straight jacket, juice them up with an experimental drug and lock them in the morgue, laid flat on their backs in a body drawer. Jack soon finds himself locked in the morgue for hours and hours and this is where it all begins. He seemingly starts to travel into the future where he meets a girl called Jackie (Keira Knightley) that he saw just before he was arrested when she was around eight years old but now the same girl is a fully grown woman and Jack finds himself drawn to her. Jack finds out something horrible about his destiny and with Jackie’s help he frantically tries to race against time to stop what seems to be inevitable.

John Maybury has created a visually engaging film that has cult thriller written all over it. The story is genuinely intriguing but it promises much more than it actually delivers. The narrative jumps from past to future to apparent present and so forth and where as this initially seems clever, it eventually ends up feeling like a ploy to make the film seem more interesting than it actually is.

Adrien Brody does a more than adequate job at portraying a man who is desperately holding onto his sanity and existence, hut he is let down by a poorly realised script. Jennifer Jason Leigh stands out as the doctor who is against Dr Becker’s unorthodox treatment methods. Daniel Craig also excels as a truly mental patient giving a thoroughly engaging performance.

So in conclusion it is an average thriller and it didn’t particularly do anything for me. Perhaps if the movie had had a more solid ending and better character development it would have proved to be much more engaging.

3 out of 6 stars