THE JACKET (U.S. / 2005)
Unlike The Pianist (2002), in which Adrian Brody embodied a man who gradually deteriorated but fought to keep himself alive, The Jacket features the star in a role in which he supposedly dies more than once. Brody plays Jack Starks, a Gulf War vet who gets shot in the head during a routine procedural in 1991 (his first encounter with death). After returning home with a severe case of amnesia, things dont go much better for him: hes accused of a murder after he hitched a ride with a stranger and was found passed out with a gun in his hand. Circumstantial evidence leads against him, but due to his mental health, hes found not guilty by reason of insanity and gets institutionalized in one of those One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest-type of environments. The institution is more or less controlled by a sadistic doctor (Kris Kristofferson) who employs his own ways to treat patients, and that includes injecting them with mind-altering drugs and locking them in a morgue drawer (the "jacket" of the title) for hours at a time. While in there, Jack isnt properly able to recall the past, but he does end up time-traveling to the year 2007. There he meets a downtrodden waitress (Keira Knightley), someone he might have encountered in his past, who informs him that he died in 1993. Now its up to jack to find out what exactly happened as time is running out for him.
An interesting premise whose certain facets have been explored with much depth in films like Jacobs Ladder (1990) and 12 Monkeys (1995). The Jacket wants you to believe that it is cerebral and ingenious, but the more one examines it, the less profound it becomes. The project has certainly attracted some big names. It is produced by Section Eight, the independent brand of Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. They chose director John Maybury, a Brit who was an understudy of the brilliant Derek Jarman at one point, and directed the formidable Francis Bacon biopic titled Love Is the Devil in 1998. Mayburys background as a visual artist has been put to good use, especially during the hallucination sequences, and hes well aided by DP Peter Deming (Lost Highway , Mulholland Drive ). But some of the compositions are criminally overdone to the point that they start resembling the processes of an MTV-hack. Even with all the time-shifting, the screenplay keeps its head until the final act where any semblance of clarity is sacrificed for melodrama. After the formal rigorosity of The Pianist, this was probably a walk in the park for Mr. Brody, but even in various dissolutory stages he is as brazenly alive here as hes ever been. And that's the main reason why The Jacket seems agreeable even when it's disintegrating in front of our very eyes.
*Available on DVD in the U.S. (Warner).