Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Jacket (2005)

A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

The author of this review has seen too many potential Hollywood classics almost inexplicably turning into forgettable disappointments. So, when the opposite - a movie bound to be failure inexplicably turning quite good - happens, I tend to really such pleasant and very rare surprise. One of those experiences was provided by THE JACKET, 2005 psychological thriller directed by John Maybury.

The protagonist of the film is Jack Starcks (played by Adrien Brody), who miraculously survived being shot in the head during Gulf War. One of the side-effects of his wound is amnesia. Few months later, while he hitchhikes through rural Vermont, he is picked up by young man who later shoots a policeman. Jack is charged for the crime and later gets committed to institution for criminally insane. There he becomes a test subject for Dr. Becker (played by Kris Kristofersson), psychiatrist whose idea of therapy involves putting patients in straightjacket and having them locked up in mortuary drawers. After one such hellish experience Jack suddenly wakes up near the road only to be picked up by young woman named Jackie (played by Keira Knightley). In her apartment he learns that the year is 2007, but that only happens to be the first in the series of shocking revelations.

The character whose grasp on reality is slipping and time travel as the plot element brought unavoidable comparisons with films like TWELVE MONKEYS, ABRE LOS OJOS or BUTTERFLY EFFECT. Massy Tadjedin's script for THE JACKET doesn't look very good when compared with scripts for each of those films. The main plot point is telegraphed relatively early, characters are one-dimensional and there are even some annoying cliches like obligatory romance, rescuing little children and some sort of sentimental happy ending. Script also fails to deliver any sort of rational of pseudo-rational explanation for time travel, making the film less attractive to all those who like to have film plots nice and tidy.

However, THE JACKET manages to overcome such constraints with the collection of diverse talents showing levels of effort seldom seen in contemporary Hollywood films. The most recognisable is Adrien Brody, great actor who risks being typecast in the roles of delicate souls being tortured and abused; despite the risk, he delivers another great performance. Keira Knightley is also very good and shows another example of British actor mastering American accent. The most pleasant surprise is Jennifer Jason Leigh, almost unrecognisable in first scenes, but whose presence holds the film together and gives it aura of being something more than cheap psychological thriller.

John Maybury, British director specialised for experimental films, also contributes to THE JACKET looking better than it actually is. Tendency to express protagonist's confusion to all kinds of camera tricks is suppressed and THE JACKET and unconventional filming techniques are used only in appropriate scenes. Canadian location and winter setting is also put to good use, creating an atmosphere that fits the script. Brian Eno also provides not memorable, but quite appropriate musical score.

In the end, those who expect another genre classic might be disappointed with THE JACKET, but they are, in most likelihood going to be in minority. More viewers are probably going to appreciate rare example of a film whose quality defies its script.

RATING: 7/10 (+++)


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