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The Jacket – film review

February 22, 2017


Another compelling little gem for those who enjoy their sci-fi low tech and heady.

Reviewed on Sunday 19th February 2017


Directed by John Maybury. Written by Massy Tadjedin. Starring: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Daniel Craig. Year of release: 2005. Running time: 103 mins.

The year is 1993 and Jack Starks; a returned Gulf War veteran wrongly accused of murder, is incarcerated in a mental institution where an experimental drug treatment he is subjected to gives him the apparent ability to travel back and forth fourteen years into the future. Armed with foreknowledge of his impending death in four days time, and with the help of a troubled young diner waitress in 2007, Jack must piece together the events surrounding his mysterious demise in order to prevent it from happening.

Directed by British flmmaker John Maybury, the tightly-knit and compelling screenplay by Iranian-born writer Massy Tadjedin, from a story by Tom Bleecker     and Marc Rocco is loosely inspired by the 1915 novel The Star Rover by celebrated author Jack London (White Fang, Call of the Wild).

The jacket of the title refers to the straight jacket which Jack Starks (Adrien Brody)     is forced to wear during his ‘treatments’ while he is drugged and placed inside a mortuary drawer for hours on end. Reminiscent of the mind-blowing 1980 film Altered States, it is this combination of experimental drugs and sensory deprivation which provides our hero with metaphysical experiences – in Jack’s case, time travel. While inside the jacket, Jack’s visits to the future and his interactions with Keira Knightley’s Jackie in 2007 present him with clues about the circumstances of his death in 1993. In other words, information gathered in the future is used to affect the present and thus also change the future.

Despite misleading poster art giving the impression the flm is tonally darker than it actually is, The Jacket is essentially a psychological sci-f mystery with substantial romantic elements; something more akin to Duncan Jones’ Source Code than mindbending horror fare like Jacob’s Ladder. And unlike Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys – a flm to which The Jacket has been frequently compared, there is no ambiguity here as to whether or not Jack is actually travelling through time for real     or merely just delusional and fantasizing he is visiting the future.

As played by 70s icon Kris Kristofferson (Blade, Flashpoint) the head psychiatrist conducting ‘behavioural modifcation’ experiments is presented with a refreshing degree of understanding not usually associated with mad scientist characters depicted in these kind of stories. While the remainder of the supporting cast;     featuring the always watchable Jennifer Jason Leigh is also very good. And Daniel Craig (playing a role similar to that of Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkeys) is virtually unrecognizable as one of Jack’s unhinged asylum inmates.

The sometimes industrial, mostly electronic score by Brian Eno (one of only a handful of original movie scores he has composed) nicely underscores the general unease     of the asylum sequences involving Jack’s treatment. While the moody, low-key cinematography by Peter Deming (Lost Highway, Drag Me To Hell) creates a suitably sickly pallor which contrasts nicely with the brighter, more positive tones of the 2007 sequences.

For those who don’t necessarily need their sci-f bristling with technology, but still enjoy wrestling with heady sci-f concepts, there’s much to enjoy with this beautifully crafted engaging little gem.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a flm school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-f thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.


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