When Gulf War veteran Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) describes his 1991 tour in Iraq with
"that was the first time I died" in the opening scene, we immediately expect the worst
from this movie; a plastered collage of knee-jerk jump cuts, false pretenses and
unforeseeable plot-twists. But to my delight, John Maybury's "The Jacket" is an honest
addition to the mind-trick genre, a movie that handles the "what if"
parallel-universe theory with discipline, unlike the jumbled Ashton Kutcher flick "The
Thought to be deceased, Jack wakes up from a state of shock with a bodytag already
stapled to his foot in the mobile hospital tent he was taken to after sustaining a pretty
nasty gunshot wound to the head. He's revived, released and sent on his way back home
leaving him with no memory of the near-death assault.
On his walk to nowhere through the bitter cold he comes across a young girl named Jackie
and her inebriated mother, stranded on the side of the road after their truck breaks down.
He quickly helps them out, gives young Jackie his dogtags and walks off never expecting
to see them again.
Soon thereafter he hitches a ride from the worst possible person to run into, and after one
event leads to another he finds himself charged with the murder of a state police officer.
Just one problem, he didn't do it. At least he doesn't think he did. It had to have been the
driver because Jack blacked out. Or did he? In court he's found innocent by way of
insanity and is sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
There he is treated -- for lack of a better word -- by Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson), a
physician of the unorthodox variety whose office is in the constant state of dim and the
glass on his disk is permanently one-fourth filled with whiskey. His treatment for Jack
involves strapping him in a straight jacket, pumping him full of mind-altering drugs and
slamming him into a morgue drawer for a long period of time (the first trip is three hours
and it only gets worse) to, oh I don't know...reflect on his mental state.
While locked inside the drawer Jack begins receiving flashbacks, but from the future --
2007 to be precise -- and reunites with a much older, more matured young-adult version
of Jackie. She is played by Keira Knightley who does her best to disguise the British
accent by replacing it with a cold and menacing tone; perhaps the intention of the director.
She has a hard time believing the man in front of her who says he's Jack Starks is actually
Jack Starks, because, as she tells him in that cold and menacing tone, "Jack Starks is
As it turns out, Jack dies shortly after New Year's Day 2003, just a week away from the
present day, being spent by Jack inside a morgue drawer learning this from the future. He
returns to the present as soon as he's pulled from the drawer and released back into the
general population of other patients.
He befriends a few, and Dr. Lorenson (Jennifer Jason Leigh), whom he relies on to make
sure he is continually placed inside the morgue drawer, otherwise there would be no way
for him to figure out how's he going to die and how to stop it. In order for him to get the
good Dr. Lorenson to believe that a mental patience isn't really mental, he and Jackie do
investigative work in the future to bring back and tell Dr. Lorenson, information he'd
otherwise have no way of getting access to.
Both Brody and Knightley take their roles seriously. A risk lest the movie bombs, and
likely due the plot and poorly generic movie trailer. Brody has less at stake considering he
was forgiven for the M. Night Shyamalan blunder, "The Village" and has an Oscar to back
Knightley has been impressive in almost everything she's done (and to think my least
favorite film of hers was "Pirates of the Caribbean") and is riveting here as she was in the
British thriller "The Hole," not so much like her fluffier roles: "Bend it Like Beckham,"
"Pirates," "Love Actually" and "King Arthur."
Her character in this film however, if I must critique, does dance along the border of
plausibility; being able to quickly recall specific names, dates and events that happened 17
years ago - being too inexplicably beautiful to be a single waitress working restaurant
tables on Christmas Eve. That she's so willing to help him learn about his past even
before she's convinced of his true identity...and did I mention she's single?
As the story progresses the film's continuity balances between the present and future, and
succeeds in not getting so wrapped up in what it's trying to accomplish that plot-holes
outshine the effect as they did in "The Butterfly Effect," whose fans will love “The Jacket”
and be joined to a lesser degree by the general movie-going population.
"The Jacket" is the first film of 2005 to make me think considerably about the future,
alternate parallel universes and how our actions in one timeline can influence another. Not
only that, I was unexpectedly moved by the outcome. While too many similar movies
drag on past its welcoming point, "The Jacket" cuts off just when you don't quite want it
to. When you're not quite sure if things worked out or if our hero failed. You have to
decide for yourself. Yes, this is one of those movies and it's about time we got one this