Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 102 minutes
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You know those action/sci-fi/thrillers from years before (mostly 1981-1988) where a man (who may or may not be insane) is amongst strangers (because he may or may not be a time traveler/immortal/framed by the government) and he meets that one weird supermodel who decides, after 2 days, to throw her entire life away and help him complete his “quest” because she feels oddly attracted to him? Then, she falls into bed with him, and she is determined that he can’t be insane because she has such strong feelings for him? Well, welcome to the plot of “The Jacket”.
Sometimes the man in these films starts off with saying, “I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but… I am from the future, and am sent to protect you because you’ll be giving birth to our savior/was born in 1517 in the Scottish Highlands and can never die/was transported here from 1941 from the USS Philadelphia/am searching out a group called The 12 Monkeys/Eddie Murphy stole my identity/My Name is Jason Bourne” and inevitably, we know in our hearts that we have to believe him.
I am a little sick of seeing films where women play unquestioningly supportive roles to strange and psychotic men who need saving, when it is the women who always end up being saved emotionally by them through sex and love.
Anyway, that’s “The Jacket” in a nutshell, except that there is a straightjacket in it, the psychotic guy is Adrien Brody, and the girl is Keira Knightley. Let us speak now of Brody and Knightley. Brody is an unquestioningly talented actor who made Summer of Sam and The Pianist not merely watchable, but good. He also is no stranger to “thrillers” (he appeared in M. Night Shayamalan’s The Village last year). He’s magnetic, and can make even the most deranged and dumb line of dialogue (as in, “I know you’re not going to believe me, but I have seen the future.”) sound presentable. Knightley, on the other hand, is almost unbearable in “The Jacket”. Her portrayal of Jackie, the aforementioned strange supermodel-type who feels compelled to team up with Brody after knowing him a mere several days, despite the fact that he is obviously mentally disturbed (for heaven’s sake, he ends up in an insane asylum for most of the film!)is not “The Jacket”’s strong point. Knightley attempts, not very well, an American accent. Though good when playing a nice girl, a soccer player, or even just a regular girl, she’s great, but in “The Jacket” her talent is literally stretched to the limits. She is affectedly sexual (to make up for her bad acting, she has decided to stick her fingers in her mouth and rub her chin against every solid surface in the film every chance she gets) and does a poor imitation of a drunk. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives the audience a sympathetic outsider as Dr. Lorenson, and Kris Kristofferson is both a frightening villain and sad old man as Dr. Becker, who treats Brody at the institution.
So what’s all this about a jacket, you ask? Brody plays a veteran of the Gulf War in the early 1990s who suffered a gunshot wound to the head and so was discharged. A year after healing, he experiences a blackout at an inopportune moment, and is found guilty of the murder of a police officer. Because of the injuries to his head and the stress of having been in the war, he is found to be insane, and sent to a facility for treatment rather than to prison. At the institute, Brody finds a friend in Dr. Lorenson and an enemy in Dr. Becker. You see, Dr. Becker has some very strange ideas about how to treat his patients. In fact, some of his methods are downright cruel and unusual, and frankly, seem pointless. Brody, locked up in a straightjacket, and placed on a morgue slab and locked in the darkness for hours at a time, begins hallucinating. He also figures out how these sessions allow him to visit the future and to change his fate. That is exactly the part of the story that gets a little too unreasonably absurd. With scenes that will remind you of all of the following films in some way, “The Jacket” does manage to stay somewhat frightening and original in its execution of the material; “Jacob’s Ladder”,“12 Monkeys”, “The Bourne Identity”, “The Philadelphia Experiment”, “The Terminator”, “Highlander”, and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. The only real scares here take place as images in Brody’s head when he hallucinates under Dr. Becker’s treatment. The rest of the film has a somewhat sappy quality to it and doesn’t deliver any suspense or thrills of any kind.
The filmmakers make a point of calling this a “genre-less” project, and indeed it is, but for most viewers I think you can throw this in the same bag with “The Sixth Sense”, “The Village”, and “Boogeyman”.
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Posted on March 4, 2005 in Reviews by Heidi Martinuzzi
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