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The Jacket

Genre: Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by
Released by: Warner Independent Pictures

In Short: Oscar winner Adrien Brody stars in this sort-of thriller with shades of “Memento.” It’s masterful but puzzling filmmaking.

A Little "Too-Straight" Jacket
A Scary Film That Doesn't Quite Bind Us
By Andrew Bender

There is much to admire about “The Jacket.” The Oscar-winning Adrien Brody puts his hangdog looks to excellent use as Jack Starks, a Gulf War veteran institutionalized for post-traumatic stress disorder. In a mental hospital in perpetually snowy Vermont, his doctors (read: captors) use the questionable practice of wrapping him in a straitjacket and stowing him in a morgue drawer for hours at a time. While inside, he experiences flashbacks – and flash-forwards – all presented in a style that make us jolt and occasionally cover our eyes.

That said, if you’re a fan of scary, scary movies (as advertised in the film’s trailers), you’ll be disappointed. Without giving the plot away, what starts out as a punch-to-the-gut thriller devolves into a clichéd time-travel melodrama. True, some scenes are – how should we put this? – yikes!, but we went in expecting to have our minds blown, and they were not. Thoroughly shampooed, maybe with a nice rinse job, but not blown.

British director John Maybury has a background in experimental film and music videos, and techniques borrowed from those genres – jump cuts, flashes on distorted images and often grisly visual effects – serve the film well. The actors, too, put in good work. In addition to the always riveting Brody, there’s Jennifer Jason Leigh as a sympathetic shrink, Kris Kristofferson as a glowering, evil shrink and Keira Knightley (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) as a key player in Jack's flashbacks. Daniel Craig gives an arresting, wide-eyed cameo as Jack’s fellow patient in the mental hospital.

But we leave the theater wondering whether the story has any significance to our lives, or for that matter, why this film needed to be made. As much as we admire the filmmaking, that question has us bound up for a long while.

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