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The Jacket (2005)

Terror has a new name. - When you die, all you want to do is come back.

Directed by:

John Maybury

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 102 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States, United Kingdom, Germany

Movie-goers have been treated to all sorts of different time travel vehicles over the years, from the rickety-looking contraption in The Time Machine, to the frighteningly minimalist arrival of a starkers Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, to the iconic DeLorean in Back to the Future. ‘The Jacket’, however, is the first flick I can think of where the period-hopping vessel is an item of clothing – and not even a particularly nice item of clothing, such as a well-pressed shirt or perhaps a new pair of chinos. Nope, in ‘The Jacket’, if you wish to be projected a decade or so into the future, you need to pull on a straitjacket, take some mind-warping drugs, and climb into a drawer at the local morgue. Given the choice, I reckon I’d probably just say “no thanks” and wait for Doc Emmett Brown to build me a car.

Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) doesn’t have that choice though. A Gulf War veteran suffering from periodic black-outs, he ends up committed to an institution for the criminally insane when he’s accused of murdering a copper and can’t remember otherwise. It’s here that he meets the nutty Dr Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson), who makes a nightly habit of forcing him into the afore-mentioned death drawer and sitting around drinking coffee whilst our Jack is unwittingly projected 15 years into the future to the year 2007. It’s here that our weasel-faced hero meets the trashy-but-kind Jackie (Keira Knightley) and, more significantly, learns that back home in 1992 he only has a few days to live. Suddenly, he faces a race against time to find out how – and why – he snuffs it.

On the face of it, ‘The Jacket’ might sound like a confusing film, but in fact it’s quite the opposite. The mind-tangling conundrums normally thrown-up whenever time-travel is involved are never even considered here, and in actual fact the story is about as straight-forward as they come. That, combined with the cold, stark cinematography leaves the film to operate more as a piece of drama – or, at times, a tenuous thriller – than any true sort of sci-fi.

This is a brave, inventive and original piece of film-making, but it doesn’t quite work. Despite strong performances from all involved (Brody, Kristofferson and Knightley are joined by Jennifer Jason Leigh and the ever-watchable Daniel Craig), the thought was never far from the back of my mind that this is a story which just doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with being open-ended – but there needs to be some sort of hint of explanation or plausibility in order for the film to become accessible, and those are aspects that ‘The Jacket’ just doesn’t have.

It's Got: Prog-rock legend Fish, of Marillion fame, as one of Jack’s fellow mentals.

It Needs: Basic escapology skills.

Alternatives:

Jacob's Ladder, The Butterfly Effect

Summary

Give it ten out of 10 for effort, boldness, and even originality – but half-marks at best for the acutely unconvincing way it all comes together.

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