A tale that, as it begins, you figure will be going the way of “Jacob’s Ladder,” ends up being more “Butterfly Effect” as a Gulf War veteran, who is sent home after a close brush with death, finds himself the guinea pig for a quack’s secret experimental treatment that ultimately sees this veteran traveling into the future in short intervals, thus bringing back information that can help change the lives of the people around him for the better. Not a bad idear, I guess, if you can really suspend your disbelief…and hang in there with all of the shifting back and forth through time, as well as all the other crap going on. You’ll either walk away with a headache,or praising filmmaker John Maybury for his unique narrative…and it is unique, but in my eyes, it’s also a big giant mess.
So, as I explained briefly before, Gulf War soldier, Jack Starks, is sent home after taking a bullet in the head, leaving him with amnesia. After his noggin heals, he’s off wandering the roads – Bruce Banner style – when he finds himself caught in the middle of a shooting that ends with a dead cop and himself taking another bullet. Life only gets shittier for Jack as he soon finds himself on trial for a murder he didn’t commit, but due to his amnesia, he’s found not guilty by reason of insanity and locked away in a nut house. His doctor, somewhat of a nut himself, has concocted an experimental treatment that’s intended to strip criminals of their violent ways. This experimental treatment involves a whole lotta drugs and time spent strapped in a straight jacket and locked away in a body drawer down in the hospital’s basement. This is where Jack starts making his journeys into the future, visiting those he met just before being locked away. One of these people is a little girl whose mother he helped with her broken down truck. He’s now zipping ahead into the future to visit her in her twenties and her life is s**t. So, he uses this new uncanny power to do a little miracle working, but he needs to get it done before he meets his death that he also foresees in his travels into the future.
I’ve given you the bare bones basics of what happens in “The Jacket”, but there’s a lot more going on and I think that’s where the problem lies. So while you’re trying to figure out what’s up with this guy – Is he dead? Is he nuts? Is he sleeping? Is he Batman? – you’re dealing with a bunch of weird subplots, you’re being shuttled back and forth, rather violently, through time, and then, finally, you start grappling with the idea that he is actually traveling into the future, whether as a friendly ghost or whatever, and you either choke on this idea, or you roll with it, but I tell ya, it takes a lot to roll with it. In short, there’s a big mess to chew on here, but love it or hate it, it’s the performances that get you through. Adrien Brody, mainly, is absolutely amazing. While you’re scratching your head and massaging your temples, you have Adrien as Jack Starks giving it his riveting all. You may not know what’s going on, but at least you have that entertainment. It was also nice to see Keira Knightley appear in something edgy like this and she’s f*****g great! The rest of the cast is top-notch – Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro and even Kris Kristofferson as the mad doctor. Great performances all around, it’s just too bad that they’re all swimming in this stew that’s rough to get a handle on.