out of Five
Running time: 102
Enjoyably bonkers thriller that’s surprisingly moving, thanks to a strong central performance by Adrien Brody.
“Academy Award Winner” Adrien Brody seems to be making a career out of
playing weird loners who inhabit worlds of their own in movies with the
definitive article in the title – witness The Pianist, The Village and now The Jacket. At first glance, his latest film looks like another generic Hollywood twisty psycho-thriller, but it’s actually a lot better than its trailer suggests.
Headshot Is Only Start Of Problems
Directed by British director John Maybury, The Jacket stars Adrien Brody as Jack Starks, a young man who gets shot in the head during the Gulf War and is declared dead, immediately raising the possibility that the entire film is his death fantasy.
His troubles don’t stop there, however – when he gets home he gets locked up for murder after a roadside encounter with mother and daughter Jean and Jackie (Kelly Lynch and Laura Marano) and an ill-advised lift with a psycho (Brad Renfro).
Since he suffers from amnesia, Jack gets locked up in a mental asylum, under the care of doctors Kris Kristofferson and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Unfortunately, Dr Kristofferson’s somewhat unorthodox “treatment” involves putting Jack in a strait-jacket, shooting him full of drugs and locking him in a morgue drawer for several hours on end.
Whilst in the drawer, Jack somehow manages to travel 15 years into the future, where he meets the now grown-up Jackie (Keira Knightley) and investigates his own untimely death. As you do…
The film boasts a talented cast and the performances go a long way towards distracting you from the increasingly bonkers plot. Brody is superb. Keira Knightley is equally impressive – donning a passable American accent and gamely stripping off in the name of “art”. Or box office. One of those, anyway.
As for the rest of the cast, Kristofferson is particularly good as the Evil Doctor and there’s equally strong support from Jennifer Jason Leigh, as well as Daniel Craig in a small but effective part as a fellow mentalist.
All Good Fun If You Don’t Overanalyze
Part of the fun with twisty time-travel movies is in trying to figure out what’s going on and The Jacket delivers nicely on that score, keeping you guessing till the end. It’s also impressively well designed - it’s always Christmas, which allows for atmospheric snowscapes that are practically devoid of colour and also qualifies the film for entry into the exclusive ‘Snow Movie’ genre.
Admittedly, some of the script’s conceits are a little over the top (e.g. Jack, Jackie, The Jacket, etc) and there’s also a spectacularly dodgy moment where Jack chats to the 8 year old Jackie just a few moments after he’s been sleeping with the 23 year old version and you’re forced to wonder just what exactly is going through his mind at that moment.
To be fair, The Jacket falls apart spectacularly once you actually try to make sense of it in the pub afterwards, but it’s a lot of fun while you’re watching it. The characters are all morally compromised in some way, which lends it an unusual edge that lifts it above the usual Hollywood drivel. Recommended.