Yesterday while sitting around my apartment feeling sort of blue, I happened across a movie on television that was just starting. It was 2005's The Jacket starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley. The movie was one of those rare finds from which I could not extricate myself, and I sat entranced for the better part of two hours.
Adrien Brody plays a returning Gulf War veteran who is hitchhiking across Vermont on a winter day in the early 1990's. As he is walking along the highway, he comes across a disabled pickup truck by the side of the road. The driver, a young woman who looks like she might have alcohol or drug issues, is passed out on the ground nearby, and her five-year-old daughter is standing around helplessly waiting for assistance. Brody fixes the truck and becomes friends with the daughter who asks for, and receives, his dog tags. When they wake the mother and tell her that the truck is running, she responds by telling Brody to stay away from them.
He walks on.
A man in a station wagon comes along next. He gives the very cold veteran a lift toward the Canadian border, but before they get too far a patrolman pulls them over. The cop orders both men to exit the vehicle. Brody gets out on the passenger side, facing the station wagon and the patrolman who is standing across the road from the driver's side. As the driver gets out, he pulls a pistol and fires several rounds into the patrolman. Brody, shocked by the sudden gunfire, falls down, hits his head, and passes out. The shooter cleans his prints off of the pistol, throws it down on the ground next to Brody, and drives away.
Brody, who can't remember anything and is completely confused and disoriented, is brought to trial for the murder of the patrolman and is found to be not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge orders him placed in a psychiatric facility where he falls prey to an evil psychiatrist who runs chemical experiments on his patients. The psychiatrist is played by an aging Kris Kristofferson.
The psychiatrist has a treatment room in the hospital basement that has one wall lined with morgue drawers. His treatments involve having a few loyal and sadistic staff members stuff the unwilling patients into straight jackets (hence the title), inject them with various combinations of experimental drugs, and then lock them in the dark and very confined morgue drawers for a day or so.
During Brody's first dark session in one of the morgue drawers he does a bit of time-traveling. He wakes up in the same community fifteen years later where he meets the grownup version (Keira Knightley) of the five-year-old girl that he met on the road that fateful day in the early 1990's. They spend an evening together before he is pulled from his morgue drawer and brought back to life in the hospital fifteen years prior.
Each time that Brody goes back into the drawer, he travels into the future and again meets the same young lady. He convinces her of what is happening to him, and she begins to do research for him while he is away. One of the things she learns is the date of his death - which will be just a few days into his future. Brody decides to use his remaining time to try and fix some lives in the past through his time-traveling experiences.
Does he succeed? You will have to watch the movie to find out.
The Jacket isn't a typical time-travel flick, whatever that is, and it is not an average race-against-the-clock movie either, but it is very clever and completely engrossing. Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley are perfect in their parts, as is Jennifer Jason Leigh who plays the good doctor at the hospital. Kris Kristofferson is evil personified in his portrayal of the bad doctor.
But good acting goes nowhere without a really great script to hang it on, and this story is very, very clever and well-written. It is not, however, altogether original. I learned while perusing the Internet in regard to this movie, that the story is remarkably similar to the plot of the novel, The Star Rover, one of Jack London's very last books. London's character suffers basically the same treatment, but instead of visiting the future, he is sent back in time to revisit experiences that he had in past lives.
The Star Rover sounds intriguing to the point that I am bound to order it and add the book to my Jack London collection. And if it had not been for accidentally running across The Jacket on television, I might never have heard of it. It's strange how life works and how inner-connected things can be - a point made very well by 2005's The Jacket!