The Academy Awards have all been dealt out, and its time
to finally put the past behind us and look forward to a
new crop of films in the local goog-a-plexes. That’s
right, as we ‘round the corner on January and February,
what is essentially “film wasteland,” viewers
will be pleased to find an occasional “ground rule
double” amongst the rest of the riff-raff.
face it, times are tough and money is hardly worth parting
with for frivolous expenses, and although film is a fruitful
derision most of the time, one can hardly fault the public
from being cautious of some of the films released around
this season. With the onslaught of banality currently haunting
the cinemas, one could do a lot worse than The Jacket
is coming from someone who sat through White
Noise and The Pacifier.
director John Maybury’s latest film, as flawed as
it may be, is still oddly entertaining. A simple hook and
an excellent cast certainly help the whole thing along,
but underneath it’s apparent that the film could have
easily taken a turn for the worse at any time. It’s
a wonder that it didn’t.
seems to be setting us up for a post-war discourse with
his opening sequence. Circumventing the now tired trend
of stylishly tight opening titles accompanied by raucous
industrial music, Maybury instead opts for realistic night
vision footage of Gulf War-like activity. This use of repeated
explosions, gunfire, and overall chaos seems to be going
somewhere, but never fully materializes through the course
of the film itself.
we are spun a yarn involving a young soldier named Jack
Sparks (Adrien Brody), who is presumed fatally wounded after
a gunshot wound to the head during a raid. Sparks lives,
and ends up entangled in a web of confusion so convoluted
that we find ourselves lost in the process. His injury results
in lapses of amnesia, and upon returning to the States Sparks
finds himself wandering the highways amidst snowdrifts on
a trek to visit some friends.
his trek he comes across a stranded mother and daughter,
whose truck refuses to start in the cold weather. The child’s
name is Jackie, and her mother, Jean (Kelly Lynch), suffers
from the after effects of either too much booze or too many
pills. Come to think of it, she’s probably just had
too much of everything. Sparks helps the two along by getting
the truck started, but is sent packing when a disillusioned
Jean suspects that he has harmed her daughter in some fashion.
along the road, Sparks somehow finds himself accused of
murdering a police officer amidst a snowstorm. After a brief
trial, the courts acknowledge his condition and he is convicted
and sentenced to an asylum for the criminally insane.
treatment is routine to begin with, but at night things
take a turn for the worst. Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson)
uses Sparks as a human guinea pig in an experiment involved
a heady concoction of drugs, a straight jacket, and a morgue
locker, normally used to store bodies. Sparks first trip
into the locker is filmed in such a claustrophobic fashion
that it almost becomes stifling to watch. The cold dark
silence is intended to allow patients a womb-like state
to work through their sicknesses according the Becker, but
Sparks finds something else lurking in the dark upon each
of tremendous suffering, Sparks finds himself magically
transported into the future via Becker’s harsh treatment.
While there, he learns that he is destined to die, and immediately
sets forth to uncover the mysteries surrounding his fate.
film sounds hackneyed enough, and it is, but it never stoops
to the level of insult. Too many films snub their nose at
the intelligence levels of common audiences, but The
Jacket seems to wear its absurd plot notions on its
sleeve. The cast severely helps this suspension of logic
along, with Brody delicately traversing the line between
lunatic and tragic hero. Although the factors of his disease
and the treatment of patients in the film are completely
fabricated, Brody still manages to clearly illustrate how
one might begin to believe the things they see when suffering
from delusions. The Jacket still falls short of
Cronenberg’s Spider, but manages to entertain
and perplex nonetheless.
is hardly alone in his endeavors, aided by Kristofferson
as well as Keira Knightley as a more adult Jackie, and Jennifer
Jason Leigh as Dr. Lorenson, who eventually comes to help
Sparks along on his journey. The cast does such an excellent
job that some of the shoddy underpinnings seem less important
and nearly forgivable.
it has its flaws, the third act resolution initially feels
awkward and wrong, especially a sequence of resolve between
Jackie and Jack. Yet despite all of this The Jacket manages
to entertain, and even invoke an interesting suggestion
regarding past sins and our ability to affect change in
our lives no matter how dire the situation may be.
dream, can’t we?