The Jacket (8/10)

by Tony Medley

I was ready to walk out of this after the first 20 minutes. It’s a dark, tough beginning. And it keeps up. But then it slowly evolves into a time warp mystery. I’ve never been able to resist time warp movies, the best of which was “The Final Countdown” (1980) followed closely by “Two for the Road” (1967).

In 1992 Jack Starks (Adrien Brody), who has already been shot in the head in the Gulf War and has shock-related amnesia, blacks out after being picked up by a hitchhiker, accused of committing a murder actually committed by the driver who picked him up, and is committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. After admission he comes under treatment by Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson) who has some weird treatments which include putting Starks in a straight jacket and inserting him into a morgue drawer after injecting him with drugs. That’s when I was ready to leave.

But I stuck it out and am I glad I did, because this is a terrific movie. It is reminiscent of last year’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Charlie Kauffman’s mystifying trip into the world of the mind. Director John Maybury has taken Massy Tadjedin’s quirky script and turned it into a masterpiece. Maybury began his career as an artist, experimental filmmaker and music-video director. His experience in the avant-garde area of cinema was perfect for this story. He says, “I’d like to think that we’ve been able to employ various languages of cinema in this film, and hopefully seamlessly enough that they’re not so self-conscious heavy-handed that the audience will even be aware of that.” He succeeded in spades. This is a brilliant excursion into cinematic story-telling.

Brody and Kristofferson give exceptional performances and they are enhanced by their supporting actors, especially Keira Knightley as Jackie Price, who comes to Starks aid, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the sympathetic Dr. Lorenson.

February 10, 2005