Time Travel, Memory Loss, Death, War. All of these topics are brought together, debatably well, in John Maybury’s new psychological thriller, “The Jacket.” Starring Adrien Brody as Jack Starks, the film opens in the gulf war, with Starks taking a brutal gunshot wound to the head. After being tagged as one of the dead, it is discovered that Starks is still alive. Flash forward to the next part of the film’s choppy opening, and John Starks is walking down a snowy, rural road in Vermont at an unknown date. He comes across a mother and daughter whose car has died on the side of the road. After fixing the car and giving his dog tags to the little girl, Starks walks off down the road. A driver, played by Brad Renfro, picks up Starks as he is hitching farther down the road. The two drive, exchanging friendly hitchhiking conversation, when a cop pulls them over. In a flash of confusion, there are gunshots and death, and Starks is suddenly on trial in a courtroom. He is found not guilty of a crime, unbeknownst to the viewer at this time, by reason of insanity. Adrien Brody’s character is then transferred to an asylum where he is subjected to experimental treatment and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kris Kristofferson’s characters are introduced; both doctors at the institution.
What follows is a tale of Starks befriending a fellow inmate (Daniel Craig), experiencing his death and future through mind-induced time travel, meeting a face from the past (the beautiful Keira Knightley) and solving elements of the crime he committed and his death that he can foresee. If this all sounds confusing, it’s because it is without actually viewing the film. After seeing it however, a solid story is presented.
“The Jacket” is a fairly good thriller, it’s just not great. While it has many elements of originality, such as the frighteningly claustrophobic scenes with Adrien Brody trapped in a morgue drawer, the film feels like a conglomeration of countless other thriller movies. During many of the scenes in the asylum, I couldn’t help but think of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and many other elements of the film felt really influenced by movies like “The Sixth Sense” and other late ‘90s films.
What does give this movie a voice, however, is the acting and the visual effects. Adrien Brody terrifically plays a mysterious protagonist who you can’t help but feel for. Keira Knightley, complete with an American accent, plays a young woman who is shrouded in sadness but is yet willing to help. Kris Kristofferson does an excellent job playing a debatably villainous doctor. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s portrayal as one of the doctors that is willing to trust Jack Starks is also convincing as is Daniel Craig’s inmate character.
On the visual side, the time travel scenes that take place in a morgue drawer, use CGI in a great way to show Starks’ eye as a gateway into the future. The morgue drawer also provides the most frightening aspect of the film, with all of its tight-quarters darkness. The film does contain some plot holes but it’s questionable whether they are there to provide the same ambiguity as many of its predecessors have done. There are many parts of “The Jacket” that leave the viewer to decide, but consequently it could be this that both adds to and detracts from the film, depending on the viewer. For me, I like it when everything is not laid out in stone, so this served as a plus.
Ultimately, it is nice to see a new psychological thriller that I do not absolutely loathe. The movie was very entertaining, and it did bring some interesting ideas to the table. There is no doubt that the actors or veteran avante-garde filmmaker John Maybury has talent, I just wish that they could have used it to bring a few more original elements to the story of “The Jacket.”