Film / The Jacket

"When you die, there's only one thing you want to happen. You wanna come back."
Jack Starks

The Jacket is a 2005 independent film starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley. Jack Starks (Brody) is a gulf war veteran that survived a nearly fatal gunshot wound to the head. Upon returning home, Jack meets a young girl and her mother stranded on the side of the road. He helps the pair by fixing their car. Later, Jack hitches a ride with a young man headed north, but when the two men are pulled over by a police officer, Jack spontaneously suffers an amnesiac black out.

When he awakes, he is in court and is being held responsible for the murder of the police officer. The jury determines he is not guilty on account of insanity, and Jack is locked away in Alpine Groves, an asylum for the criminally insane. There, Jack undergoes experimental treatment for his supposed mental illness, and he begins experiencing strange visions of the future. In these visions, he encounters a grown version of the girl he previously met (Knightley), and he learns startling truths of upcoming events.

Over time Jack learns to control and manipulate his visions so he can uncover more of the mystery surrounding Alpine Groves, his alleged mental illness, and the history of the girl he encountered. With this knowledge, Jack sets out to right several wrongs in the lives around him, and to potentially find freedom from the asylum. Time is running out, however, as he uncovers an unexpected side-effect to the experiments...

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Jean, Jackie's mother.
  • Alternate Timeline: Jack supposedly creates one by writing his Epilogue Letter.
  • Ambiguous Ending:
    • The screen fades to white and a female voice asks "How much time do we have?".
    • The alternate endings are even more ambiguous, with at least one implying that the entire film is a Dying Dream from when he was shot in Iraq.
  • Arc Words: "Come back to me, Jack!"
  • Artistic Licence Medicine: Averted. One of the few times ECT is not shown as Electric Torture. Dr Lawrenson is dubious about using it on a child but the procedure helps him with his seizures.
  • Bedlam House: The mental hospital is full of sadists. Though in the future, with Dr Lawrenson now in charge, it seems a little better.
  • Blipvert: Jack's visions when in the isolation chamber are presented as flashing images in quick succession.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jackie's father is not around.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: The experimental drug and treatment apparently gives Jack these sort of dreams.
  • Dying Dream:
    • One of the alternate endings uses this, showing that Jack dies shortly after waking in the army medical tent.
    • Used partially in the actual ending, where Jack is dying from his pre-ordained trauma to the head (turns out to be from slipping in the hospital parking lot) during his last future visit/vision/whatever, where he is able to see that Jackie turns out much better with her mother alive.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Subverted. Jackie's mother nicknamed her 'Petal'. Jack tells Jean to keep calling her that, saying he thinks she likes it really.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Dr Lawrencon has curly hair in Jack's present. When he sees her in the future, her hair is a little shorter and straight. She's also not wearing her glasses any more.
  • Fade to White: How the film ends.
  • Karma Houdini: The guy who picked up Jack while hitchhiking and then killed the cop (landing Jack in the hospital in the first place) is last seen drinking at a bar, seemingly off the hook.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Dr Becker is completely grey when Jack meets him in the future.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I was 27 years old the first time that I died"...
  • Meganekko: Jennifer Jason Leigh's character.
  • Mind Screw: The entire movie.
  • Missing Mom: Jack discovers that Jackie's mother Jean passed out one night while smoking a cigarette and burned to death. He changes her fate however as Jackie is on the phone to her in the alternate future.
  • Snow Means Death: Jack and Jackie are visiting a snowed in graveyard.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Damon, the mean orderly, ultimately ends up a patient at the hospital.
  • Voiceover Letter: Jack narrating his letter toward the end.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Subverted. Jack appears to change the future with his actions, but Jackie also seems to be aware of the alternate timeline where her mom died.