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The Jacket (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Additional Scenes and Alternate Endings. 'The Jacket': Project History. The Look of 'The Jacket' featurette.

THE Jacket lays claim to being a genre-less movie; one which combines elements of mind-bending drama with romance, murder, mystery and time travel to deliver a truly unique experience.

In truth, John Maybury's stylish film contains plenty of traces of other films, including Memento and Jacob's Ladder, yet capably manages to shrug off such comparisons to maintain an identity of its own.

Adrien Brody stars as Gulf War veteran Jack Starks who finds himself accused of murdering a police officer while still recuperating from a gunshot wound to the head sustained during his time with the military.

Committed to a mental institution, Starks immediately falls foul of its head physician, Dr Becker (Kris Kristofferson), who wastes no time in putting him on a controversial treatment regime that involves Starks being injected with experimental drugs, confined in a straight jacket and locked for extended periods in the drawer of a basement morgue.

Yet far from prompting the confession Dr Becker thinks it will, Starks' disorientated mind propels him into the future, where he meets Jackie (Keira Knightley) and discovers that he is destined to die in four days.

Determined to understand his fate, Starks teams up with Jackie in the future to solve the mystery surrounding his death, while liaising with a more sympathetic doctor (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the present to further enhance his chances of uncovering the truth.

Given the time-travelling nature of the plot, audiences will have to work hard to keep up with some of the film's developments.

Yet Maybury provides a suitably satisfying conclusion, even if it lacks the punch of films such as Memento and Jacob's Ladder.

As a result, his film is more hopeful than harrowing, forcing viewers to confront the possibility of what they would do if faced with their own impending death.

In the pivotal role of Starks, Brody delivers a near-perfect mix of anger and compassion, avoiding the temptation to become overly dis-connected (especially during the asylum scenes).

His extreme, often violent treatment at the hands of Dr Becker is sometimes difficult to watch but is neatly counter-balanced by some of the tender moments he shares with Knightley, whose own story arc provides Starks with his shot at redemption.

And Knightley, too, responds well to the challenge of playing it gritty, turning in her best performance for some time (even though her use of nudity feels a little unnecessary).

Of the support cast, Kristofferson also stands out as the shady Dr Becker, whose extreme measures still stem from an element of hope that he can help Starks. He is a conflicted character and not merely the villain.

Maybury therefore deserves credit for giving his ensemble cast the space to shine, even though the film remains packed with directorial flourishes (some of which threaten to disorientate the viewer as much as Starks himself).

As such, the tension is maintained well and the film never outstays its welcome.

The only real stumbling point is the resolution, which many may find a little too convenient and melodramatic, especially since at least one of the plot strands is left unexplained.

For those willing to forgive any flaws, however, The Jacket remains a consistently intriguing thriller that manages to find hope in the darkest of places.




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