Finally, someone has made a movie that draws attention to the obvious correlation between the space-time continuum and straight jackets. If that sounds a little off the wall, be prepared for more when watching the latest sci-fi psychological drama The Jacket (ignore the posters folks, it’s everything but a thriller). It’s an intriguing “fill in your own blanks” kind of story that takes a slightly different twist on the idea of time traveling.
Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) begins the story as a 1990s Gulf War soldier whose compassionate side ends up getting him killed…or so he thinks. A bullet wound to the head doesn’t stop Jack who miraculously re-awakens after hours of being deceased. The trauma leaves him with a sort of floating amnesia and he returns home to a life of drifting from place to place, hitchhiking as he goes. One day, as he walks a cold, wintry highway, something goes very wrong. Unfortunately, due to his condition, he’s unable to remember what it is.
Jack finds himself on trial for the murder of a police officer. He has no recollection of the events of the day, only vague memories of two chance encounters. The first was with a woman and her young daughter. Their truck had died and left them stranded by the side of the road. Jack helped them get back on their way. The second was with a nameless passerby who had offered Jack a lift. Without a clear understanding of the day’s events, and on account of his mental injuries from the war, the jury finds Jack not guilty on grounds of insanity and send him to Alpine Grove mental hospital for treatment.
While at Alpine Grove Jack becomes the subject of a secret treatment being conducted by one Dr. Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson) who is working to find a cure for Gulf War syndrome. The treatment, referred to as the “womb”, involves drugging the patient, placing them in a full body straight jacket and locking them in a small, dark morgue-like drawer for several hours. It is during these sessions that Jack discovers he is able to travel forward in time. His journeys reveal to him an intricate web of relationships and secrets, including his own death, an event he discovers will happen within a matter of days. With the help of a stranger in the future (Keira Knightley) and a good natured doctor in the present (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Jack sets out to try and put all the pieces together before time runs out.
More akin to Christopher Reeve’s Somewhere In Time than Asthon Kutcher’s Butterfly Effect, The Jacket doesn’t really worry about explaining how Jack is able to time travel. It also doesn’t get too hung up on the ramifications of the time hopping either. Instead it focuses on the question: how much time do any of us really have, and what are we willing to do with it? Some will likely find the movie’s lack of explanation and copious loose ends frustrating, but there’s a rewarding movie-watching experience to be had if you can set those aside and delve more into the characters than the technicalities.
Brody and Knightley strike an interesting chemistry, the best I’ve seen between Keira and any other actor. Granted her pairings with Clive Owen in Arthur and Orlando Bloom in Curse of the Black Pearl don’t set the bar very high. Adrien and Keira just fit well together and it makes the film’s slightly haphazard plot that much more forgivable.
Despite being labeled at thriller, there’s not that much in The Jacket that will make you jump or give you nightmares. It will however leave you with a lot of questions, some of which you may not want to bother answering. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of appealing character and affecting storyline to make watching the movie worth your while.