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  Jacket, The Zip It
Year: 2005
Director: John Maybury
Stars: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro, Daniel Craig, Steven Mackintosh, Brendan Coyle, Mackenzie Phillips, Laura Marano, Jason Lewis, Richard Dillane, Kerry Shale
Genre: Drama, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1991, during the first Gulf War, Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) was an American soldier who had an unfortunate altercation with the locals there; well, one of the locals, for as he went over to comfort a child, he pulled a gun and shot Jack through the head. The medics thought he was dead, but on the table he revived and was eventually discharged thanks to his injuries, which left him something of a drifter through the States. On one of his jaunts, he encountered a truck parked by the side of the road with its drunken driver and her daughter at a loss for how to fix the engine - a fateful meeting...

No, this was not The Calum Gilhooley Story, it was yet another riff on the old Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge tale, bearing comparisons with the superior Jacob's Ladder of fifteen years before. Except those comparisons were less flattering, as no matter how this was dressed up it still rang hollow when you finally worked out what was going on, which is your basic time travel story, where the lead character moves forward in time to find out a way to change a bleak future. The manner in which he does this is to undergo top secret tests in a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane, which is what Jack has been judged to be.

How did that happen? Well, first things first, we are aware that he is not criminally insane because we have seen the crime he was convicted of committed by someone else, who was the man who picked up the hitchhiking Jack and shot the patrolman who pulled them over in the middle of nowhere. Jack ended up unconscious during this, hence the law thought he dunnit due to complications from his past injury, and so he is landed in the asylum whereupon he is experimented upon with mindbending drugs by Kris Kristofferson, of all people. If nothing else, The Jacket has an impressive cast, even if the gloom hanging over proceedings renders this one of the least engaging time travel efforts.

Yet that could be because the filmmakers were less intrigued by the possibilities of science fiction, and more about the emotional avenues that could be explored. Everyone in this comes across as being on the verge of tears at least one point, often more, and the theme, in spite of the general misery, would appear to be an inspirational one. Funny way to go about it, you may think, but you couldn't accuse this of not having the courage of its convictions as Brody mopes through his role with the look of a man who has recently woken up and not quite shaken off his slumber. It could be the thinking was to leave the audience pondering over its "Seize the day" moral, even as they felt the sadness of those unable to do so.

So poignant, then, and far from the dull horror movie this could have been. Except that there's the nagging sense that there should have been more to this, or maybe there was and you haven't picked up on it, which can present an attractive ambiguity in the right hands but here is more likely to prompt ponderings on what a half hour Twilight Zone episode might have done with the premise. Jack jumps back and forth from Christmas 1992, where he is incarcerated, and winter 2007 where he meets the little girl whose alcoholic mother he assisted with her truck all those years ago, and who could have given him an alibi if she hadn't been insensible. The little girl is now Jackie (a brittle Keira Knightley), also an alcoholic since her mother has died, making Jack the closest thing she has to a guardian angel as he tries to save her selflessly. If there were promising things here, it's simply too stodgy and heavyhanded, and finally schmaltzy, for its own good. Music by Brian Eno.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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