- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

“The Jacket” stars 2002 Oscar winner Adrien Brody as Jack, a Desert Storm veteran whose memory has been ruptured by a head wound. Wrongly suspected of shooting a highway patrolman after hitching a ride with a psycho on a snowy back road in his native Vermont, he is incarcerated in the Alpine Grove mental hospital.

The asylum is dominated by Kris Kristofferson’s Dr. Becker, a proponent of shock therapies combining massive injections of some knockout drug with prolonged confinement — while straitjacketed — inside morgue drawers in the basement.

It’s possible that Ken Russell’s “Altered States” was a favorite movie of director John Maybury and screenwriter Massy Tadjedin. Although Jack seems to be wasting away from the Becker treatment, his imagination is liberated in a free-floating fashion, allowing him to travel ahead in time from 1993 to 2007, where he encounters Keira Knightley as a fetching, if edgy, waitress named Jackie. She turns out to be the desirable culmination of a little girl he had met on the day of his arrest. Small world, indeed.

Jackie seems to work at the curiously named Baillie Diner, possibly a homage to the once-remarkable Bay Area abstract filmmaker Bruce Baillie. Abstract imagery leaps and bounds from Jack’s nonrealistic mental activity while cocooned at Alpine Grove. Mr. Maybury’s visual style comes closer to resembling the hot flashes invented to illustrate heroin rushes and galloping dementia in Darren Aronofsky’s Godforsaken “Requiem for a Dream.”

Too far gone to qualify as an eligible consort, Jack functions as a kind of guardian angel to Jackie when he can break away and pay a call. His intercession is meant to have a benevolent effect on a blighted life.

He finds an accomplice on the hospital staff, Jennifer Jason Leigh as the melancholy but relatively enlightened Dr. Beth Lorenson. She suspects Dr. Becker of malpractice and is persuaded to spirit Jack off campus, circa 1993, in order to facilitate a flurry of good deeds in the next century.

The supernatural allure of this plot seems nil, but the movies have grown accustomed to complacent trifling with the afterlife.

Filmmakers take it for granted that the future is eternally theirs for the asking, because they can depict the impossible and miraculous. This facility, alas, is seldom reconciled with the invention of stories that make sense of characters who trust in Providence or transcend barriers of time and space.


TITLE: “The Jacket”

RATING: R (Sustained ominous atmosphere; depictions of confinement and mental illness; occasional graphic violence, profanity and sexual candor)

CREDITS: Directed by John Maybury. Screenplay by Massy Tadjedin. Cinematography by Peter Deming. Production design by Alan MacDonald. Costume design by Doug Hall. Music by Brian Eno.

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes


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