Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Violence, Language and brief Sexuality/Nudity
Directed by: John Maybury
Written by: Massy Tadjedin
Starring: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro, Daniel Craig & Laura Marano
THE JACKET is a strange beast. That’s probably part of the reason that it didn’t necessarily excel in wide theatrical release. This is the kind of oddball film that lends itself better to a festival environment followed by a quiet home video release, rather than a multiplex. In lesser hands, the cool premise behind THE JACKET’s story (involving questionable methods of treating mental illness and time-travel) could have become a by-the-numbers thriller. Writer Massy Tadjedin opts to take a different route by transforming this high-concept into an emotional piece of adult science fiction. Make no qualms about it, THE JACKET is a weird movie and also a good one.
The time is 1992. Jack Starks is a recently returned Gulf War veteran suffering from slight amnesia. After helping a little girl, Jackie, and her mother stuck on the side of a snowy road, Jack winds up wrongfully accused of killing a cop. Seen as mentally unfit to stand trial, he is admitted to the malicious Dr. Becker’s asylum. Jack is subjected to extreme treatment by being placed in a restricting full-body strait-jacket, pumped full of drugs, and thrown into a morgue locker for complete sensory deprivation. It is in this state that Jack somehow transports to 2007, where he meets the now-adult Jackie and discovers that he died on January 1, 1993 under unusual circumstances. Faced with time ticking away in ’92, Jack tries to solve the mystery of his own death in order to prevent it from passing and forms a strong connection with Jackie.
THE JACKET is a creepy story that doesn’t necessarily go in the directions that I expected it to. The slick and muted visuals maintain a foreboding tone through the entire film. It also helps that the performers really sell their characters to the viewer. Adrien Brody is compelling Jack, who begins as a victim and ultimately tries to own his disturbing situation. Keira Knightley is solid as the older version of Jackie. However, there doesn’t seem to be much chemistry between herself and Brody. The film tries to convince us that they’re the perfect couple, in spite of Brody having to time travel to a point where Jackie is of legal age. Daniel Craig is awesome in a side role as one of the asylum’s more colorful patients. Kris Kristofferson is excellent as the vicious, cold Dr. Becker and turns his character into a complex villain.
A behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD revealed that THE JACKET was in the works long before it was filmed. Screenwriter Massy Tadjedin remarked that the original script she received was 160 pages (each page usually equals a minute of screen time) and was super complex. It’s fairly obvious that this entire premise is fruitful with plenty of ideas that could have been milked further. Apparently, only the general concept was kept from the original screenplay and a shorter film was constructed around the main idea. This is actually given away by the film not completely living up to its full potential, which could have wound up as a modern masterpiece. A couple of plot holes make their way into the film as the concept of time travel is a tricky one to get right, but a few of these (especially two key moments) could have easily been fixed with small deleted scenes being reinserted into the final cut. These drawbacks take away from the potentially awesome flick that THE JACKET might have become otherwise, but this is still a good movie.
Though it never makes the most of its crazy premise and the Brody-Knightley chemistry isn’t convincing, THE JACKET remains a neat little film. If one were to judge from reading the premise or even just watching the trailer, they would go in expecting an intense thriller and wouldn’t expect so much heartfelt emotion thrown into this. The latter of which especially comes out in an ending that seems to split audiences right down the middle on how they feel about it. THE JACKET is a flawed, but cool piece of darker science fiction and deserves far more attention than it receives. Recommended!