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Film / The Jacket

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"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!"
  • 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. He never returned to America to begin with, nor did he go to a mental hospital, and Jackie never existed.
    • 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.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy Is Torture: Subverted! Jack learns from the future that Dr Lorenson helped Babak with his seizures via ECT. When her past self hears this, she's merely unsure about using the procedure on a child - but goes through with it and sure enough...
  • 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 Lorenson has curly hair in Jack's present. When he sees her in the future, her hair is a little shorter and straight.
  • Fade to White: How the film ends.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Dr Lorenson's future self is distinguished from the past by not wearing her glasses anymore.
  • 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"...
  • 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.
  • Nice Guy: Jack, to a fault. His introductory scene has him politely trying to talk to a young boy. This ends up getting him shot.
  • Snow Means Death: Jack and Jackie are visiting a snowed in graveyard. Also Jack's apparent death happens in the snow when he slips on ice.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Damon, the mean orderly, ultimately ends up a patient at the hospital.
  • Voiceover Letter: Jack narrating his letter toward the end.
  • Walking the Earth: After being discharged, Jack spends most of his time on the road.
  • 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.