mind can be the scariest place in the world. Particularly when it goes
off the track. Simple decisions and events can become a desperate
grasp at a gossamer truth. Sometimes a corner of it is captured, but
sometimes it just slips through the fingers.
of the reason that The Jacket is as spooky as it becomes is that it
is never certain whether the main character is sane and the people around
him are crazy or if it is the other way around. Jack Starks (Adrien
Brody) certainly seems reasonable, most of the time, though he has
been through great trauma which is weighing upon him.
film starts during the first Gulf war, as Starks survives some horrible
battles only to be shot in the head by a small Iraqi boy. He is
thought to be dead, but he somehow survives. It is not without a
price, his brain
has been damaged and he suffers from blackouts. Nine months later, he
is a drifter on the highways of New England. He helps a drunken woman
(Kelly Lynch) and her daughter (Laura Marano) fix their broken-down pick-up
Later, he hitches a ride with a stranger (Brad Renfro) who is pulled over by
a policeman for a traffic violation.
next thing Starks remembers is waking up in a hospital and being charged
with the murder of the officer. He can't remember exactly what
happened, nor can he prove that he had met any of the three people he had
encountered on the fateful afternoon. He has disorienting flashes of
memories, but he can not get a handle on them.
Starks is found to be insane and committed to a spooky, surreal old mental
hospital called Alpine Grove. The head of the facility, Dr. Becker
(Kris Kristofferson) is conducting a series of ethically ambiguous
experiments on sensory deprivation on the patients, and Starks is quickly
thrust into the program. He is given a series of drugs, confined by a
strait jacket and stuck in a corpse drawer in the hospital's morgue.
first Starks panics and is overcome by startling flashes of memory and
hallucination. However, as he goes in additional times he realizes
that if he stays calm that he can somehow mentally transport himself fifteen years
into the future. There he meets the little girl Jackie again, who has
grown into a bitter, alcoholic waitress (Keira Knightley). While in
the future, Starks discovers he is supposed to die four days after the day
that he is in the jacket back in
1992. So his time becomes a desperate attempt to get back into the
solitary and find out how to save his own life.
also learns more about Dr. Lorenson (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a doctor at the
hospital who is against the experiments. Starks gains her trust by
helping her connect with an autistic boy that she is treating on the side.
film never bothers to explain how or why the mixture of the drugs and the
confinement give Jack this power of time-travel.
That fits into to basic mood of ambiguity the film has, though. There
are several hints that make you wonder whether any of this has happened or
if it is all a delusion. For example, it appears that the same child
actor who plays the Iraqi boy who originally shot Starks also plays the
autistic child that Dr. Lorenson is treating.
Since Starks never met the patient, it seems an odd coincidence.
Honestly, The Jacket often doesn't quite make sense from a
straight story-telling point of view. For example, why would finding
the girl and her mother be so important towards proving his innocence, when
they had seen him hours before the police shooting and would have no real
idea what he was doing when the murder happened. Also, would Jackie really know (and
state matter-of-factly) the exact date that Starks died, even if it was a national holiday?
However, the plot really isn't supposed to all add up neatly. The
Jacket is a powerful and thoughtful thriller (no that isn't a
contradiction in terms). And through a strange confluence of events,
the puzzling sections of the plot just add to the power of disorientation
that the film exudes.
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Posted: February 22,