Everybody knows that psychological thrillers are better with time travel, and 2005’s The Jacket (available on demand through iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and Amazon) is one such film that you may have overlooked upon its initial release.
Though this Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley starring film wasn’t critically or commercially successful, it takes place across two timelines that expertly fold in the narrative and make you question your own reality. But what makes The Jacket such a solid film is that it never loses the plot.
The Jacket presents us with a race against the clock on two separate timelines.
The Jacket begins its story in late 1992, and we find Adrien Brody’s Jack Starks hitchhiking in Vermont. Starks is a Gulf War veteran who suffered and survived a gunshot wound to the head, which causes him to suffer from periods of amnesia. He helps a young girl named Jackie (Laura Marano/Keira Knightley) and her mother fix their broken-down car, and gives Jackie his military dog tags when she asks for them.
Shortly after parting ways with Jackie and her mother, Jack Starks hitches a ride with an escaped convict who shoots a cop dead and flees the scene after being pulled over. Starks is found with the murder weapon but has difficulty recalling the incident.
The rest of The Jacket takes place at a hospital for the criminally insane after Jack is blamed for the death of the police officer. Though we no longer see a young Jackie portrayed by Laura Marano, we haven’t seen the last of Keira Knightley, who plays an older Jackie on a separate timeline.
The primary focus of The Jacket is the unauthorized and experimental treatment that Jack receives from Dr. Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson). The treatment in question involves being injected full of drugs, wrapped up in a straitjacket and shoved inside a morgue drawer so Becker could study the effects of sensory deprivation on his subjects. Through this traumatic experience, Jack finds himself waking up in 2007, and runs into Keira Knightley, a waitress at a diner who is later revealed to be Jackie.
Jackie takes pity upon Jack, and lets him spend the night at her run-down apartment. Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley carry this scene, and escalate their emotions perfectly when Jack finds his old dog tags, and asks Jackie what year it is.
Though this Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley starring film wasn’t critically or commercially successful, it takes place across two timelines that expertly fold in the narrative and make you question your own reality.
When Jack explains to her that he thinks she’s the little girl he found on the side of the road, Jackie breaks down and tells him that he died on New Year’s Day 1993, and the rest of The Jacket whisks us back and forth through these two timelines so we can figure out what actually happened to Jack.
Upon waking up from his first time travel experience, Jack isn’t quite sure if what he experienced was real. But as The Jacket progresses, it becomes clear that he’s traversing time and space as he knows it, and his actions in the present day have a profound effect on the 2007 timeline. On subsequent visits, he gains the trust of Keira Knightley’s grown-up Jackie, and they start researching what transpired at the mental hospital.
From this point forward, The Jacket presents us with a race against the clock on two separate timelines. In the December 1992 timeline, Adrien Brody’s Jack Starks tries to get into the morgue drawer as frequently as possible in order to connect with Keira Knightley’s Jackie in 2007. Though time travel plots often get convoluted by their own design, The Jacket tells two pretty straightforward stories that allow you to follow both narratives without ever losing sight of the main story.
The Jacket is a well-made film that does an excellent job treading the line between reality and perception
The Jacket did not perform well upon its 2005 release and only earned $21.1 million against its reported production budget of $28.5 million. Critically speaking, it scored a 44 percent critical score against a 73 percent audience score.
Roger Ebert gave The Jacket two out of four stars, stating, “you can sense an impulse toward a better film, and Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley certainly take it seriously.” But in the same breath, he says that the film suffers from “time-travel whiplash,” and fails to deliver on that front.
In other words, The Jacket is very much carried by Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley’s acting, but its storytelling may leave a bit to be desired if you’re up on your time-travel semantics. At the end of the day, The Jacket is a well-made film that does an excellent job treading the line between reality and perception and will take you on a wild ride through a morgue drawer and into the future.