A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 531 – The Jacket

The Jacket – August 13th, 2011

Prior to putting this movie in, I had no idea what it was about. Not a clue. I don’t know what I expected, but the funny thing is that I know I looked it up at one point and saw that it starred Adrien Brody and that got me interested. What can I say? I like Brody. But then it slipped away from me and I totally forgot what I’d read about it, which wasn’t much aside from the cast, and it was gone from my mind. There’s a book by the same title in my collection at work, and somehow I think I’d come to the conclusion that while it wasn’t an adaptation of that book, it had some vague similarity to it. Boy, was I wrong there. This isn’t even remotely a realistic fiction story about stolen clothing. What the hell was I thinking?

What this is, is a story about a man who is living slightly outside his timeline. And what that is, is a story I’m up for poking at. If one was going to poke too hard, I think the story might unravel, and in some science fiction that would be a flaw. Of course, time travel stories always have flaws. I’ve just accepted that as part and parcel of the genre. But here I don’t so much see flaws as intentional imperfections. The nature of the time travel, the mechanism by which it’s achieved, the changes made to the timeline and the eventual ending are all left to interpretation. And I’m good with that. It suits the movie just fine.

A man named Jack Starks is injured while serving in the US military in Afghanistan. He has a head wound and is thought dead until his eyes open. After returning to the US, his thoughts aren’t quite all complete. He doesn’t remember everything he thinks he should. He reacts slowly and in some cases oddly. But he’s also quite rational and self-sufficient. While walking down a road on his way somewhere he helps a little girl and her mother, whose truck has broken down. The little girl asks him questions while her mother is sick at the side of the road. He fixes the truck and they go on their way, his dog tags in the little girl’s hand as a gift. A young man picks him up later on and something happens. A police officer gets shot and Jack can’t answer the questions after. He can’t explain and he can’t give names and so he’s convicted and sent to a hospital for the criminally insane. And I would say that this is where the movie starts, except it started with that head wound in Afghanistan and it started again with the little girl and her mother.

The hospital is where the time travel takes place, but I would say it’s up to the viewer to decide if it actually happens or if it’s something slightly different or if it’s a series of lucky guesses on Jack’s part as he brings information back from the future. Personally, I side with actual time travel, but I don’t much care what the mechanism for it is. That’s the part I’m not bothering to poke too hard. The point is that through experimental and frankly illegal treatment, Jack finds a way to access a future version of his own timeline. He pulls himself into the future by several years, except it’s a future where he died years before. He meets people he knew: Doctors from the hospital, the little girl who’s now all grown up. And each time he’s treated, he learns more and does more and puts more together. And each time he comes back he’s more desperate to figure it all out before he dies.

Now, where it gets really interesting for me is the changing of the future. Just by his presence alone Jack makes the future a different one than it would otherwise have been. He’s not supposed to be there, but there he is, the same age he was at the time he supposedly died, healthy and whole and far more clear-headed than he is in the hospital, pumped full of drugs. So he’s able to affect the future, and in doing so he gains what he needs to change things in the past. And when the inevitable happens and he finds himself dying (again) his efforts pay off.

How does it all work? Why does he end up where he ends up? Was it real? What happened to him in the past? Did he really die? Did he die again? And again? Those are all questions the movie doesn’t really concern itself with. They aren’t the important part of the movie. The important part of the movie is that Jack has this opportunity to change not only the life he’ll eventually lead, but the lives of other people. And he does it by learning about those people and finding out what they need. What’s apparent through the course of the movie is that Jack is intrinsically a good person. He just wants to help the people around him. Even when he’s making a bit of mischief, which he does in the hospital and I don’t blame him one bit, he makes it in order to cheer up a fellow patient. And the things he changes for the girl he met and the woman he meets later on are things he didn’t have to change. It wouldn’t have made her less inclined to help him later on since she’d already helped him. But he does help her and he helps her mother and in doing so everything changes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie in a way I hadn’t expected when we put it in. I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting much of anything when we put it in, let alone a movie I found interesting and entertaining. The cast was fascinating, with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kris Kristofferson as doctors at the hospital (Stephen Mackintosh too – he keeps popping up where I don’t expect him), Daniel Craig almost unrecognizable as another patient and Kiera Knightly as the grown up girl. Every one of them gave an excellent performance that only served to make Adrien Brody’s Jack a more solid character in a bizarre situation that none of them can explain. It feels like it should be a complicated movie, what with the time line changes and all, but it didn’t feel complicated to me. I didn’t have a hard time following it. I didn’t need to make any diagrams to keep track of it. Yes, it has unanswered questions, but you can answer them yourself, or leave them be, which is what I plan on doing. The movie is fine regardless.

August 13, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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