If traveling through time was a possibility, fate would face a new challenge with time travelers hoping to change their destinies.
In “The Jacket,” directed by John Maybury, Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) attempts to reverse his own death. An injured veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, Starks suffers from occasional bouts of amnesia and therefore cannot adequately defend himself when wrongly accused of shooting and killing a cop. Starks, found not guilty by reason of insanity, is sentenced to an institution for the criminally insane.
Dr. Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson) tries an experimental treatment on Starks; putting him in straitjacket and enclosing him in a body drawer in the basement morgue sometimes for hours at a time. But while in the drawer, Starks finds he can transport himself several years into the future.
In 2007, he meets Jackie Price (Keira Knightley) who tells him that Jack Starks was found dead in 1993, on New Years Day. Now, Starks, while in the drawer, must work with Price to find out how he died, with the hopes of preventing it.
“The Jacket” uses an interesting technique while Starks is imprisoned in the drawer. Dark, extreme close-up shots of Brody’s teary eyes cut between quick flash cuts of bright colors of his memories, with loud and distorted sounds and voices, putting the audience right in the drawer with Stark in his moments of extreme anguish.
These tense moments in the drawer reveal a powerful performance by Brody, showing Starks’ fragile sanity cracking.
When Starks meets Price in the future, Brody shows a gentler, caring side to Starks with his kind looks and emotional attachment to a girl from his past.
Knightley also delivers a subtle yet strong performance as a distant and tortured soul. When Starks tries to introduce himself, she abruptly interrupts, saying, “Let’s not do the name thing. I don’t want to meet you. I may want to help you tonight, but I don’t want to know you.”
Knightley’s simple movements, like nervously curling her lower lip under while pondering the situation of this stranger claiming to be a dead man from the past, make her character more real. Price fears him, but is also intrigued by the possibility. Knightley also performs a perfect American accent, dropping her natural English dialect.
The cast marks the films greatest strength, which hopefully might distract viewers from its major flaws.
Unfortunately, “The Jacket” suffers from the same problem as other stories that deal with the difficult concept of time travel namely impractical plot holes.
Starks learns something from a doctor in the future, which allows that same doctor to trust him enough to help him in the past. But the trouble is, this doctor received this information from Starks himself. Had Starks never traveled through time, she would not have been able to tell him what she did, and therefore he could not have learned the vital information. It’s a vicious circle that does not make sense if it is dwelled on too much.
Some people might argue that all this is up to interpretation as the entire scenario could take place in Starks’ head. He is, after all, in a mental institution and suffered head trauma in the war. But, if that is the case, it is a cheap way out.
“The Jacket” seems to be a cross between 2004’s “The Butterfly Effect” and 2000’s “Frequency.” However, the characters and dialogue of “The Jacket” were much more believable and real than “The Butterfly Effect” as its script was not as forced. However, “Frequency,” about a father and son speaking through time over a radio, had a more engaging relationship between the main characters. Starks and Price’s relationship seemed rushed and undeveloped, as the two hardly knew each other.
Still, “The Jacket” presents intriguing moments, like when Starks challenges Becker, whose treatments seem more like punishment. Becker tells Starks that he will pray for him, adding “Maybe God will pick up where the medicine left off.”
“You sure you know where to find him?” Starks retorts.
And as Starks travels through time, the question of whether it’s possible to change fate surfaces. In the end, the answer is a nicely mixed one.