The Jacket

After watching a bit of The Jacket, another movie immediately springs to mind. 12 Monkeys. And the latter one is much better. In fact, The Jacket is a few years too late. In the meantime, many movies have done a better job playing with reality and time travel. The Jacket makes a valiant effort, but gets by on style more than substance. The premise is that Jack Starks (Adrien Brody, The Village, The Singing Detective) can somehow travel into the future when strapped in a straightjacket and stuck in a morgue. Starks declared insane, and is in an institution for the murder of a police officer. Starks, a veteran from the Persian Gulf War, suffers from amnesia. He did not kill the officer, but cannot remember enough about the incident to prove his innocence.

He does remember meeting a young girl and her mother shortly before the shooting, but again, he has no proof. At the institution, he is undergoing experimental therapy under Dr. Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson, Blade: Trinity, Silver City). Becker believes Starks to be evil, and that this therapy is a way to help cure him. Inside the morgue, Starks panics. Then he finds himself in the year 2007, where he meets Jackie Price (Keira Knightley, King Arthur, Love Actually). Price is the same girl he met the day of the murder. She doesn't believe he is Starks, and tells him that Starks died shortly after he was sent to institution. If this is true, Starks has less than a week of life left.

The Jacket shifts gears, and director John Maybury (Love is the Devil, Genetron) turns this into a mystery. Price and Starks need to figure out how Starks died, so that he can try to prevent it. Starks begins to look forward to the 'sessions' both because he falls in love with Price, and because he can try to save his life. This is where Massy Tadjedin's (Leo) screenplay, based on Marc Rocco (Where the Day Takes You, Dream a Little Dream) and Tom Bleeker's story, falls apart. For one, Price immediately falls in love with Starks, and drops everything to help him in his search. Uh, she knows him for less than a day. Sure, the Price character is a bit screwed up, and it would be weird to see somebody presumed dead for years, but Maybury gives no reason why Price reacts the way she does.

Another missing element is that of the paradox. The script is not ambitious enough to deal with how changing the past may affect the future. It doesn't even try very hard to play around with the shifting times. Films like Donnie Darko, or the tangentially similar Open Your Eyes or The Machinist work because underneath the confusion is a cohesive story that makes complete sense. As is stands, The Jacket goes half the distance, and relies upon a twitchy Brody and Knightley, in a bad American accent, to carry the film. The institution looks suitable dingy, and the scenes where Brody is locked up do get a bit freaky. Nevertheless, Maybury holds back when he should have pushed forward. The Jacket has the beginnings of a good film, but none of the filmmakers took that extra step to make it more than just ordinary.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, and brief sexuality/nudity.

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