Good, if you can just sit back and not ask too many questions
Being trapped in a confined space, it would seem, gives one clarity.
Uma Thurman's character in Kill Bill Vol. 2 was buried alive and was
able to recall the days of her training. Jason Schwartzman was zipped
up in a large bag to help him reflect on his life in I Heart
Huckabee's. But the claustrophobia that these two films tried to inject
in a simple scene is exploited into a full-length film in the new
Adrien Brody thriller, The Jacket.
Brody plays Jack Starks, a name said so often during the film that I
didn't have to look it up again days later when preparing this review.
Jack is the opposite of lucky. In 1991, he goes to Iraq only to be shot
in the head by a child trying to protect his family. As the voice-over
quickly points out, he is 26 and that was the first time he died.
Flashing forward 12 months, Jack is trying to hitch a ride on a cold
winters morning when he is picked up by a tense and anxious young
driver (played by bad boy Brad Renfro). When a police officer pulls
over the duo shots are fired leaving the officer dead and Jack with yet
another bullet hole.
When he awakes, Jack finds himself with temporary amnesia and the lack
of his recollection of the incident allows leaves him as the only
suspect to the murder. Jack is then sentenced to a mental institution
where under the care of Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson) he finds
himself being strapped in a straight jacket and thrown into a morgue
locker as part of an experimental treatment.
For reasons that never become overtly clear, this process allows Jack
to travel into the future where he befriends Jackie (Keira Knightley)
whom he had met as a young girl the day of the murder years previous.
Together, they try and piece together the years between his
incarceration and the present date, Christmas Eve 2007 while Jack uses
his knowledge of the future to impact the lives of the present.
The Jacket jumps around in time so frequently that it takes you about
half way through the film to understand what exactly is going on; and
even then, I wasn't exactly sure how it all pieced together. Was he
real? Is he a ghost who haunts those that lead to his death? Neither of
these questions come clean with acceptable answers, but for a movie of
this genre, I guess we can expect to cut it some slack and do some
piecing of assumptions together ourselves.
There are so many things about this film that just don't work well. The
chemistry between the two leads is so non-existent that it is
completely unbelievable that Jackie would befriend the eerily gawky
Starks and their love scene was nothing more than an attempt to throw
Knightly's first screen nudity at a confused and somewhat bored
audience. And although The Butterfly Effect was no Gone With The Wind,
it at least appreciated the fact if you change something in the past,
it should have drastic effects on how the future unfolds.
But there are things that do work wonderfully. The color scheme of
using only blues and greys in the Mental Institution give it a CSI: NY
feel that fits well within the sterile setting. Also used to good
effect is the claustrophobia of the locker. Much like Uma in Kill Bill
Vol. 2, the screen goes dark and you feel as if you are squiggling
along with the character trying to gasp for air while fending off
Director John Maybury (you are excused if you have not yet heard of
him), does an ample job of keeping the movie moving even if we don't
quite understand exactly what it is moving towards. Based on a
screenplay by Massy Tadjedin (again, you are excused), the movie
doesn't allow you to have many popcorn refill breaks and be able to
understand exactly where these characters are headed.
Whether you like The Jacket or not will depend on whether you are
someone who can sit back and enjoy a film or whether you think you are
smart enough and try to jump ahead to try and figure things out before
the characters do. I was in the latter category upon first viewing, but
enjoyed it enough for a recommendation upon a revisit.
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