Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
THE JACKET (2005)
Based loosely on a Jack London novel that was itself based loosely enough on true events that the filmmakers decided the London estate didn’t deserve any credit or money, The Jacket is the story of Gulf War veteran Jack Starks (Adrien Brody), who’s sent to a mental hospital in 1992 after pleading insanity to a crime he didn’t commit. A Dr. Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson) has a radical new treatment for Jack called Strapping Him Into a Straitjacket and Tossing Him Into a Fucking Drawer For Several Hours. While in the drawer, Jack has traumatic flashbacks, but with enough focus, it seems he can instead flashforward to 2007, which is awesome, because Keira Knightley is there.
I’m going to keep this section short, because while the premise of time travel via forced sensory deprivation might sound crazy, I think that’s the point.
“Me go future!”
If at any point Jack’s trips through time seem a little too convenient or to go against their own rules, there’s always the possibility that he’s finally just snapped. That particular plot point can be done really badly, but they handle it admirably, and without trying to blatantly shove it in our faces that this could all be in Jack’s mind.
I am Jack’s straitjacket time machine.
Hell, I even enjoy it on another level as a critique of common time travel tropes. For example, Keira Knightley’s character, Jackie, is actually an adult version of a little girl he met shortly before the murder he was accused of committing. Now, time travel love stories already have a bit of an age difference creep factor to them, but remove the temporal displacement and we’re just looking at the fantasy of a pedophile locked in a drawer.
Yeah, that’s dark shit, but it’s dark shit done well, which is more than I can say for The Fucking Butterfly Effect.
Time travel aside, it’s an indie movie about a mental hospital, so there’s a buffet of actors trying to prove they have range. Adrien Brody is his typical soft-spoken self.
“Hmm? Oh, I didn’t notice you there, observing my acting.”
None of the other patients are particularly noteworthy, other than Daniel Craig, whaaat?
With dark hair and an American accent, whaaaaat?
Kris Kristofferson manages to score a Time Travel Trifecta with this, Planet of the Apes, and Millennium. This is probably his best performance of the three, as a doctor who doesn’t give any fucks about his treatment solutions, but then finds himself giving some repentant fucks later in life.
What’s-a-matter, Kris? You look like you’ve seen a g-g-g-guy you locked in a drawer.
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a nurse who kinda sorta believes Jack’s time jacket shenanigans. She comes across like a distant but nevertheless caring aunt. Yeap, that’s all I got for her.
Remind me again why I try to describe acting every week?
And, finally, I saved her for last because Leonard Maltin bafflingly claims that this movie is only worth watching to see Keira Knightley “sporting the goth look.” So, are you prepared to behold this stunning princess of darkness??
GOTH. AS. FUCK.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
The flashbacks and time travel effects are the sort of thing you’d see in your typical Nine Inch Nails video. Not particularly innovative, just your standard “opening credits of Se7en” rapid edits.
I guess just scroll through these really fast?
Yeah. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing intolerable. It works for what it is.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
I’m not kidding; I think they edited around every single scene of a character actually talking about time travel. Which… good on ‘em, really. The audience already knows how it works, so why reiterate it? Just cut to a post-conversation reaction shot of Keira Knightley being all disbelief-y, like so…
“Well, I must be the crazy one, right?“
I must be getting results from my side quest of watching every time travel movie I can get my hands on, because I’m apparently in the minority for enjoying this movie. I think I’m exhausted from seeing the same old tropes pop up again and again and again, usually without much creativity or logic, but The Jacket had just the right amount of darkness and ambiguity to draw me in. I’m not saying it’s a gem, but within the time travel canon, it’s certainly unique. Without time travel, though, what’s this I hear about a movie called Jacob’s Ladder? Did that rip off Jack London too?
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.