Okay, I really liked the movie Primer, and I also liked The Jacket. If pressed, I would 100% admit that I liked Primer more. Why is this? Well, the tale of Jack Starks (Adrien Brody), trying to put his life back together by switching back and forth through the multiverses in his mind was intriguing, but ultimately left me sort of cold. I don’t mind going into a movie and not understanding it. Maybe I should say, I don’t mind going into a movie and understanding it my way. People ask me to explain why I like both of these films and I can’t really explain why. I can’t put my finger on the things about the movie that would make me watch it again, I just think that overall I got the general feeling the director was going for. When this happens, if it’s done well enough, everything else we judge a movie by falls to the wayside. The Jacket is one of those movies. For me, anyway.
Throughout this movie it seems Jack travels between a life in which he killed a police officer, has a relationship with Jackie (Keira Knightly) and the only things that have actually happened to him are that he was shot in the Gulf War and that he’s spent time in a sensory isolation chamber courtesy of Dr. Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson). Now, I might have all this totally wrong. I might have completely missed the boat but this movie seems to have more in common with Donnie Darko then it does with Primer. The only thing I can say for sure is that at some point it seems, at the end, Jack ends up where he wants to be.
Project History and Deleted Scenes
This offers an interesting look at how The Jacket went from the page to the screen. We get the hear from the people involved, why they felt the need to make this particular film and their thoughts on the project as a whole. While I don’t think that we get all the answers that we may want (come on, do the extras on DVDs ever really give us that?), I think that that there is enough here to enlighten the confused viewer to not only the creators motivation but the creation’s motivations as well. The deleted scenes are pretty standard fare with none of them sticking out anymore then the other. Although, you might find answers depending on your interpretation of the movie. As for myself, I am still unsure if I have “watched the movie correctly”, and while some of my ideas I feel were bolstered by these supplemental materials, other ideas were not even addressed.
The Look of The Jacket
You know, I am not a fan of the actual look of this film. Why is it that most films that take place in people’s minds and are more cerebral have to be darkly lit? Why can’t the lighting, for the majority of the film, just be soft and bright? While it was cool seeing how certain FX were achieved, I personally don’t really care for how The Jacket achieved them. For the most part, I think that if this movie hadn’t been so “dark”, it actually might have had a broader audience. I feel this way because then the studio wouldn’t have had the type of footage they needed to pass this movie off as a horror film (which it isn’t). Had things not been as harsh (the lighting, the editing, the performances, etc.) I think the creators would have given themselves a better chance of getting their intended vision to the people.
Anamorphic Widescreen. The DVD transfer and compression are amazingly clear. For a film that is this darkly lit, it really does stand out. One might not think that this matters, or that these are non-important issues in a film of this nature, but the look of The Jacket has really been preserved from when I first screened it in the theater. In fact, it is amazing that it looks as good as it does, simply because we are dealing with so many scenes of Jack Starks in the sensory box. It is almost hard to tell what he is doing, what is going on and furthermore how we as viewers should orient ourselves to his situation. I know that the goal was to draw viewers in and make them feel his claustrophobia, but I think that the overall look of this film might have had too much of a negative effect. Again, I have to wonder why people think that all the “heady’ films, have to be a “head-trip” for the audience. It seems like you could certainly get the results you wanted if the overall tone and look of the piece was less harsh and more opened up for the viewer.
There is a quiet harshness to this soundtrack. Almost like we’re given moments where nothing seems to be happening, and then suddenly the sound will violently shake us out of this preconceived notion that we have nothing to worry about. This film works very effectively in that regard, because as a viewer, I honestly had no idea what I was watching. I couldn’t say for sure what as going to happen, because I had no idea what was going on. Was Jack Starks alive or was he dead? The sound helped really add to the void felt by this world that seemed almost like a limbo state. He has four days to figure everything out. Why four days? What would it be like trying to piece so many parts together during that time? How would your world sound? While I don’t normally go for the music video, quick cutting that this often entails, I did find myself watching, always wondering and never able to get a firm footing with this movie. The film was leading me and as a result I was 100% engaged the whole time. If there is such thing as being baffled in a good way, The Jacket does that in spades.
Like the fragmented world that Jack Starks inhabits, it seems to all be laid out before us with this cover. Various pictures seem to all add up to conveying his confusion, which the viewer will soon feel upon screening this movie. The back features some more photos from the movie, as much of a description as I think could be provided, an extras listing and of course the technical specifications. This cover is a solid mix of black and yellowish gold colors. I don’t know how much this packaging is going to help drive DVD sales, but I will say that mainly people will probably rent it simply because it wasn’t in the theaters long enough for them to actually see it.
Now before you start wondering how I can like a movie I don’t really understand, I’d like to ask why it is an imperative that we have to understand everything about a film? I liked the way this movie made me feel. Sure, I could have done without the quick, music video cutting and definite overuse of imagery, but overall I liked what The Jacket was attempting to do. I like the ambition behind the project.
Sadly, you can’ t really sell that in today’s market place. I am not sure what the budget was on this movie, but I know that for the most part it got a cursory release. By “cursory” I mean that it was mainly released so as to prime the pump for this... the DVD release. And this isn’t necessarily such a bad thing because I think that DVD is where this movie is truly going to obtain it’s audience. In fact, I don’t know if it will be as big as Donnie Darko, but at the very least it will have the chance to hit the same group of people.
Sometimes there are easy explanations and sometimes there aren’t... only time will tell if The Jacket will be appreciated.
The Jacket was released March 4, 2005.