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Psychological thriller stuck in the drawer

by Archives March 2, 2005

In the opening scene of The Jacket, U.S. Marine Jack Starks (played by the ever so talented Adrien Brody) gets shot in the head by a little boy, during the Gulf War in 1991. Miraculously, he survives the near fatal blow but suffers from amnesia as a result of the injury. The viewer is suddenly transported nine months into the future. Starks returns to the United States with no memory of life before the war. While walking down a lonely highway, he helps a drunken woman and her daughter who are stranded on the side of the road.

Jackie, the little girl, is quite taken by Starks. A bond is established between the two immediately. She asks him if she can have his dog tags. He gives them to her without question. After Starks helps them start their truck, the mother basically tells him to get lost.

Starks manages to snag a ride with the next car he sees. The driver gets pulled over by the cops. Once again, the viewer is transported into the future.

Starks is on trial for murder of a police officer and has no memory of the circumstances surrounding the homicide. He is found not guilty by reason of insanity and is sent to a mental institution. Shortly after he arrives, he meets Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson), one of the physicians at the hospital.

Becker subjects Starks to an extremely inhumane and unorthodox form of treatment. He is drugged, strapped into a straight jacket and shoved into a corpse drawer for several hours. While he’s in there, he recalls images from the war.

Once again, there is a jump toward the future. Starks is waiting in the parking lot of a diner on Christmas Eve. A waitress named Jackie (Keira Knightley) takes pity on him and offers him a ride to wherever he needs to go.

After this jump, the movie takes many twists and turns, some for the better and some for the worse. One of the other patients at the hospital tells Starks that if he learns to calm down while he’s in the drawer, he will be able to get a glimpse of the future. He comes to the realization that the future is the key to unlocking his past.

He also meets another physician named Dr. Lorrenson (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She is basically Dr. Becker’s arch nemesis. She sympathizes with Starks and offers him a little comfort in a not so comfortable environment while he’s receiving treatment.

The film wasn’t bad, but it was not terrific either. The first half was pretty good but it sort of went downhill after that. It’s kind of like The Village, where there’s a build-up of mysterious circumstances that never really deliver the way they should.

However, one thing is for sure, the actors certainly do not disappoint. Each of them delivers a remarkable performance in his or her own way. Although Brody did not seem quite right for this role (he’s just doesn’t seem like the soldier type), he made his character seem very believable. He had a couple very strong scenes. It is also very refreshing to see a classy British actress like Keira Knightley dressed down with an American accent (she totally nailed it).

But the true stars of the film are Kris Kristofferson and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Their characters are polar opposites. Dr. Becker is downright creepy. Lorrenson seems like Florence Nightingale compared to him.

You will either love this movie or hate it. If you’re a true fan of psychological thrillers, you will certainly be disappointed, but if you’re just looking for sheer entertainment, you’ll get your money’s worth.

The Jacket opens in theatres this weekend.

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