March 7, 2005

The Jacket

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The jacket referred to in the feature film The Jacket is not the kind of outerwear one could find in their own closet, otherwise some may question your normality. The jacket in question is in fact a full-bodied, pee-stained restraint used for the sadistic treatment of the “mentally ill” by a just-wanting-to-help doctor. The storyline surrounding this jacket contains bouts of amnesia, prescience, statutory rape-like romances and other conditions that could gain one admittance to an insane asylum. Many times a viewer may feel crazy himself through unconventional uses of the camera and, at times, confusing transitions between what occurred, what is occurring and what will occur. Where it seems the film lacks in flow by having awkward camera transitions and plots, it makes for an interesting 102 minutes in relaying to the viewer turbulent and disturbing thoughts and emotions of the character.

The movie begins with what seems like a political statement as the main characters troubles start and end with the beginning and end of the President George Bush’s administration. Images of Iraq from 1991 are juxtaposed with images of Bush’s administration. In this turmoil of green night vision, going to the ant race and scrambled images of Bush, the audience is first introduced to the ill-fated Jack Starks (Adrien Brody). He is shot by a young, defensive boy triggering the start of his suffering and the overall confusion of the film.

What happens after Starks’s injury is a fast forward in time to after his recovery and the beginning of his next decline. Viewers see Sparks walking down an unpaved, what appears to be deserted road. But, where is he walking from? He was just shown bleeding to death in Iraq and then all of a sudden it is twelve months later and he is in Vermont? Besides the point, while he is walking on this road he meets a young girl named Jackie (later played by Keira Knightley) and her wasted, just asking for lung cancer mom Jean (Kelly Lynch) with their broken down truck. After helping them, he returns on his walk to nowhere and meets a fishy, slow-driving stranger who gets Starks sent to jail for the murder of a cop. Starks fails to remember it was not him who did it due to his head trauma in Iraq, is found not guilty due to reasons of insanity, and is doomed to a mental institution.

In the hospital, Starks is locked in a morgue in “the jacket” for hours at a time by Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson), who is mentally ill himself. While in the number 11 morgue chamber, the medicine he receives allows him to travel to the year 2007 and see the fate of the young girl Jackie. He sees the life she lives as a result of her mother being burnt alive by a cigarette (another worldy theme of this movie: don’t smoke or you’ll burn alive and leave your kids with rotten, poor lives). Eventually, the two (in the future) begin looking into Spark’s past circumstances that have caused his current as well as his future conditions. The movie also contains a romantic storyline — between a pre-adolescence aged Jacki and the 27-year-old-Starks.

If you can not sense the confusion through this review, you definitely will after seeing the movie’s visual manipulations and camera techniques. Whether this is a pitfall in the ability of the movie to communicate or excellence in making the viewer feel mentally disturbed is up to you. Any person who plans on seeing The Jacket should be prepared for a mentally disturbing, yet possibly interesting watch.

Archived article by Jennifer Rice Sun Contributor