The Jacket

The Jacket


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Life isn't working out too well for Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) and, for that matter, neither is death. A soldier in the Gulf War, the movie begins with him being shot in the head by a small boy. "I was 27 the first time I died," he says. On a field hospital gurney, he wakes up, not so dead after all, and is pensioned off and shipped home.

We catch up with him some months later, wandering down a snowy road, where he encounters a drunken mum (Kelly Lynch), sitting by the side of the road, while her little girl shivers in the snow. He helps them and continues on his way, hitching a lift with a stranger, a lift that will have grave consequences. His memory isn't quite right since the war and the next time we see him he is sitting in court, accused of murder, for which he is sent to a mental asylum run by Dr Becker (Kriss Kristofferson, playing against his normal all-American hero type). The doctor's methods are unorthodox to say the least, revolving around pumping his patients full of drugs, strapping them into a straitjacket and shoving them in a morgue drawer for hours at a time to "help" them confront what they've done.

Copy picture

When Jack goes in the drawer, however, he realises it is a door to his future - and things aren't looking rosy. He sees the little girl he helped on the road in the future, too, discovers that he is due to die, again, and sets about trying to alter fate.

There is much to credit in this film. John Maybury has a sharp directorial eye and this, coupled with Brody's concentrated performance, as a man who may, or may not, be going out of his mind, creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere that pervades the film.

Maybury is an artist in addition to a director and it's clear that he has an eye for colour, which he uses cleverly to reinforce emotion. The acting is good across the board, with Keira Knightley finally getting to cast off her corset, as a disillusioned, off-the-rails teen. She has adopted a sub-Courtney Love accent for the role and it works, helping to distance her from previous outings in costume drama.

Not everything connects, however, with the plot being the greatest weakness. We've been in this asylum before, with Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and a string of other films. It's hard to believe that such a place would still exist in the Nineties, though, perhaps, that is the point.

Reality is a moveable feast. What is real and what is imagined swim together. But we've had our senses blurred before (Jacob's Ladder) like this.

The unconventional love story at the heart of the film feels off-key and, despite its initial edginess, The Jacket treads a well-trodden road, tying up rather too neatly.

There is little doubt in my mind that it will score at the box office, despite failing to challenge the audience as much as it likes to think.

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2005
Share this with others on...
The Jacket packshot
A casualty of war returns to a world that appears strange and unreal.
Amazon link

Read more The Jacket reviews:

The Exile ***

Director: John Maybury

Writer: Massy Tadjein, based on a story by Tom Beecker and Marc Rocco

Starring: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kris Kristofferson, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro, Steven Mackintosh, Fish, Jason Lewis, Jonah Lotan

Year: 2005

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/UK


Sundance 2005

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Jacob's Ladder