The Jacket (review)

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I like a good mind fuck as much as anyone, but hey, Mr. Movie, do not roll over and light a cigarette before you’ve done your job. Jack Starks is a Gulf War vet wrongly convicted of murder (or is he?) by reason of insanity — his brains got scrambled by a bullet in Iraq — and is sent to a mental institution (or is he?) where horrific experiments are performed on him by a crazy doctor (or are they?) in an attempt to cure him. So, in 1992, mad Dr. Kris Kristofferson (Blade: Trinity) wraps poor Adrien Brody (The Village) in a straitjacket, pumps him full of some kind of mind-altering drugs, and slams him into a morgue drawer — his idea of therapy — where Adrien/Jack dreams himself into the year 2007, where he settles down with a nice girl, Jackie (Keira Knightley: King Arthur)… or does he? Jack and Jackie? What are the odds? What did Jack think when he found out the Gulf War didn’t stay fought? Any attempt at commentary on war in general or Iraq in particular is missing — though it seems screenwriter Massy Tadjedin might be striving for that anyway — but director John Maybury makes a valiant effort at creating an atmosphere in which we can’t be sure what’s real for Jack, what’s merely remembered, and what he’s invented in his brain-scrambled, drugged-up condition. The color red keeps popping up, too — the red chair Jack prefers in the dayroom at the hospital must have some connection to the red drawer in the morgue he gets shoved into, right? But no. When all is said and done, all the ambiguities and all the mystery gets ironed out into something tiresomely mundane. The Jacket gets us all hot and bothered, ready and willing to be fucked with… and then it turns out to be real dud.

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