The Jacket (2005)
(Theatrical Release Date: March 4, 2005)
(Premiere date: January 23, 2005 [Sundance Film Festival])

Time Travel? Are you Crazy?

J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

A committed patient in a mental hospital desperately drafts a note as part of his last ditch effort to use the art of Time Travel to correct the fractured timeline and save the love of his life (a diner waitress) from a painful existence because (in part) of her bad parent.

Sound familiar? Yeah, Warner Independent's George Clooney-Produced The Jacket does bear a striking resemblance to The Butterfly Effect. However, director John Maybury's latest film actually manages to out class, out play, out wit and out match The Butterfly Effect in almost every way. It could be stated that The Jacket does right what The Butterfly Effect got wrong (enough to make me want to downgrade that film's rating just a tad), however, taken for all with all, one would think that an edgy and different independent film featuring Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Steven Mackintosh, Daniel Craig, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro and Mackenzie Phillips should be downright perfect... unfortunately, it's not quite there yet.

In 1992 a gulf war Marine named Jack Starks (Brody) is shot in the head and presumed dead. While he mysteriously survives, he's sent back to the mighty, mighty USA with one of the worst cases of "Gulf War Syndrome" since Tim McVeigh. Soon enough, Jack is committed to a mental institution for a murder he can't remember with no trace of the witnesses he can't find. It's there that Starks experiences a most disturbing form of "Therapy" at the hands of his new shrink, Dr. Becker (Kristofferson, because Ted Danson wasn't available). Starks is strapped into a full-body straight jacket and slid into a morgue drawer for hours causing almost total sensory and mobility deprivation... and, if you believe the insane, causing the ability to travel backward and forward through time.

What follows is a frantic jaunt... backward and forward through time... as Starks tries to save his own life (mostly from the year 2007) and fix the future of the woman he falls for there, the shockingly gorgeous Jackie Price (Keira Knightley), whom he might just have met in the "present day" of 1992. Folks... she's not ugly! Starks has his enemies (or those he believes are his enemies), and his allies in multiple timelines, one standout (in either column) is Leigh's Dr. Lorenson, who is convinced that Starks' 1992 ravings are symptoms of his delusions.

But are they? That's the question here, and it's a question that raises memories of another little time travel film called Twelve Monkeys. It's distinctly possible that this diagnosed delusional patient might be simply experiencing more and more delusions, and ultimately this whole thing could be fantasy. In fact, there is some proof that some of what Starks experiences actually are delusions, and, that known, who knows what is and isn't? It's this uneasy confusion that keeps even the slower moments going.

But the real separation between this film and those that came before is the acting. Brody is shaping up to be another of our greats, and seems to be determined not to let his Best Actor Oscar (for The Pianist) take away his indie cred! It's Keira Knightley's accent-free, occasionally nude, pained performance as Jackie Price that practically steals the show. She runs the gamut of emotions here that transcends the minor limitations of her character.

Where The Jacket shows its lacking is in some of the stretches of the imagination that are demanded here. Sure, at core, this is a time travel thriller that will naturally require some suspension of disbelief, however, the actions of the very characters sometimes feel about as logical as the debate over social security. When the plot requires one thing, the characters act one way... when the plot demands something distinctly uncharacteristic, Massy Tadjedin's screenplay happily makes a change for the sake of moving the story along. Brody and Knightley deserve mad props for pulling off a couple of Cringe-worthy lines too. When an insane person says an inane line, one should understand that it shouldn't be taken seriously, but when the directing, the music and the very camera work highlight that line like a constitutional passage, one wonders if the film makers realized the line needed a good rewrite!

That, and... well... as good as this movie is, and as well as it handles its many facets, it's hard not to feel like a lot of this has been done before. The use of memory gaps as a holding place for jaunts backward in time as well as the function of future knowledge being used to shock and shape the past both have a tendency to feel like they've already been used, reused, reduced and recycled.

Still, it's all good, and while it could have been great with a few spits and polishes, The Jacket still manages an above average Four Stars out of Five. Is Twelve Monkeys better? Maybe so. Was The Butterfly Effect out already? Sure. But neither of these movies feature two incredibly beautiful nude scenes from Keira Knightley either. I mean, after that, even mentioning Brian Eno's score seems superfluous. Keira Knightley nude trumps all! So until I'm finally committed to a mental institution, I'll see you in the next reel... however, if I'm to master the art of time travel, who knows what reel I might turn up in? Let's hope Keira's in that one too!

Time Travel your way to new Reviews...
But please... Restrain yourself!

The Jacket (2005) Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III who is solely responsible for this article and Straight Jacket he never got out of...
(he types with his nose)...
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I could use some Keira Sex!!
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