Four Theories to Explain the Movie The Jacket

The Jacket is a confounding and confusing movie about a vet returning from Iraq and losing his mind, literally. IMDB
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THiNC. is a geeky enclave of individuals that love movies, love discussing movies. Love debating movies. Love tearing movies down and building them back up again. But not just any movies. Movies that are hard to understand, cool concepts, intriguing, inside out ideas from really cutting edge movie creators. (IE, you can keep your comic book movies and their perpetual regurgitations, thank you very much.) I don’t know, like movies like The Kindergarten Teacher, which turned my brain inside out. Or maybe the movie Resolution, anyone? Can I get an amen? (Or it’s sequel-ish bigger brother The Endless? Come on, I am crushing 450 foot home runs here.) Primer is the great grandaddy of them all – but there are many more where that came from, and we want to talk about them all. So yeah, after reading about the Jacket, use that clever search box and find movies that you want to talk about and jump in. The water is warm. Right, so now, four theories to explain the eovie The Jacket.

Well, today, we got a little older movie, but oh wow, how The Jacket is my kind of movie. Mike brought it to our attention, but we won’t blame him for waiting 10 years to show up. And you guys can just hush about me being, like, so excited at this party 13 years too late. Kazoos? Confetti anyone!? Anyone? Helllllooooo? Whatever.  So yeah, today we are talking about mortally wounded vets, straight jackets and time travel? It’s gonna get right geeky up in here before this is all over. Here’s a trailer, but why watch that when you know that I’ve got your back. I mean, Mike said you should just watch it. So why don’t you just watch it? MIKE SAID IT’S GOOD AFTER ALL. And you can watch it right here by clicking one of these online streaming service providers:

Ok – so this is going to be a spoiler filled deep dive on the film. If you haven’t seen it, pass. I hate it when people read this page without watching first. Yes, hate. Disdain. Abhor even. So don’t. 

The Jacket Movie “Quick” Walk Through

Jack Starks (played by Adrien Brody – Midnight in Paris), a Vet, is shot in the head. It’s a fatal gun shot wound… or is it? He is about to be bagged and tagged, but opens his eyes, and the docs save him. Back stateside, he stumbles in with a guy that gives him a ride who has warrants out for his arrest. The Stranger. When pulled over by police, he kills the policeman and frames Jack Starks. Jack, found not guilty for the killing by reasons of insanity, is admitted to Alpine Grove under the attentive and watchful care of Dr. Becker (played by Kris Kristofferson).

Becker, intent breaking this criminal, utilizes a womb like experience for his worst offenders. He accompanies this womb with a pile of drugs (Loxadol and Ativan) and locks him in a morgue locker. After Starks’ first experience in the tank, we learn that there was another inmate that also had similar treatment, but ended up dying. Ted Casey, who sodomized a seven year old. So yeah, we aren’t thinking that this encounter with Dr. Becker is designed to go very well. And in flash backs, he begins remembering that he was hitchhiking and met a mother and a daughter, and gave his dog tags to the daughter – named Jackie. He also begins remembering that the man driving him was pulled over by a cop. So he was near the cop that was killed.

In Starks’ second trip to the tank, his visions and the chaos of his mind cause him to travel into the future. And it’s in the future that he happens upon Jackie (played by Keira Knightley)… who offers him a ride. But when she finds out that he hasn’t got any place to go, they go to her place. Long story short, he finds the dog tags that he gave Jackie 15 years before. And with that, she kicks him out. 

But a day or two later, he is put back in the tank and he travels again. This time he is able to convince Jackie that he is not dead, and that he is actually time traveling from a sanitarium back in 1997, just a few days before he is going to be killed. So the two of them jump on the case, trying to figure out how he died and to see if they are able to change the past, and Jack’s future. Complicating matters, Jackie falls for Jack. 

When Jack gets back to Alpine Grove he tells Dr. Beth Lorenson about what is happening to him. And as proof he tells her about Babak, and the breakthrough she needs to pull him out of a catatonic state. When the treatment works she finally believes Jack and the situation he is in. And during his next visit to the future Jack and Jackie head to Alpine Grove to see who still might be there. He finds Dr. Becker, and when they talk Becker defends his actions, saying that he was trying to help. And he learns the name of the three other patients he killed with this treatment. Nathan Piechowski (died in 1986), Jason McGregor, and Ted Casey. These are the names Jack needs to wake Becker up, and make him understand what he is doing to these patients back in 1992. Jack also asks Jackie for her address when she was a child in 1992. 2140 Waldemere Way. 

And when Jack gets back to the past, he goes with Dr. Lorenson, to Waldemere Way, and delivers a letter to Jackie’s mother. Basically it tells her that if she doesn’t change her life, soon she will die in a fire cause by a cigarette in her hand as she sleeps. This shakes her to the core, and causes her to change her life dramatically. (This is one of the most significant details in the entire movie… we’ll talk about this later, promise.) 

Now, when Jack first learned that he died on January 1, 1993, it was said that he died in the box. But when Jack returns to the Grove, he slips on the ice, and cracks his head. Lorenson, totally believing his story now, knows he needs to get back into the box and hustles him in. He arrives again at the diner where  he met Jackie the first time. But, this time, she doesn’t recognize him. And yet, she still offers him a ride, and Jack chuckles to himself. 

Theories of Understanding the Movie The Jacket

Pretty much an schmo is going to come up with the theory that Jack died in Iraq. So we’ll cover that one. I also want to deep dive on the time travel schema that is used inside the movie The Jacket, because it is potentially really really complicated. But yeah, there are a couple theories that I think are worth going over in trying to grapple with this movie. 

The Jacket Movie Theory 1 – Jack is Dead 

Congratulations! Yes, this theory hit you immediately on your first watch. Why? Because bullets to the head are generally fatal. And yet, here is Jack, still alive. But yeah, this just can’t make all that much sense. So, in this theory, it’s simple. It assumes a Jacob’s Ladder ending experience (Oh come on, that movie came out in 1990… don’t blame ME for spoiling it. You’ve had 28 years to watch it. Sheesh) where he is bleeding out on the battlefield, and as he does, he is envisioning random chaos. I mean, Jack/Jackie? He’s making love to himself here people! What’s there to not understand!? hahaha. And as he’s dying he’s considering all the other potential futures he won’t be able to have, different options, different issues. And a love for his life. And when he dies, the visions end. Right? Easy? Perfect. 

The Jacket Movie Theory 2 – Linear Time Travel

Theory two does not buy theory number one, not even a little bit. Instead, it actually posits, that Jack survives. And that he comes to Alpine Grove, and does travel into the future. But with the Linear Time theory, Jack is a viewer of the future, a participant to things that have already locked into place. He can’t change the future or the past, it just is what it is. The problem with this theory is that we are shown a couple of different experiences where Jack’s actions cause the realities of both 1992 as well as 2007 to change. The most significant of which is Jack’s warning Jackie’s mother about her behavior. We see Jackie as a nurse, or a doctor at the hospital. She now has a VW Bug, and her life is completely different as a result of her mother’s involvement. 

The Jacket Movie Theory 3 – The Multiverse Theory

As soon as the movie was over, I had a sharpie in hand, and a big sheet of 11×17 paper. And I had this feeling like there were these radiating lines, pulsing out of a central, coherent timeline that were occurring. So I sketched these lines that I saw in my mind, and that is the image above. Well, not all of it, obviously. I photoshopped the rest of the details on top of those lines. 

But what are these lines all about? Well, similar to theory 2, Jack survives his time in Iraq. He also travels in time. But with the multiverse theory, we actually posit that the changes that he makes while both in the future and in the past cause the linear timeline to shard, (can I verb shard?) and variant. And when he time jumps again, it forces him into the new timeline that he has effected. (Which sort of reminds me of the movie Coherence – and who’s to say that he shouldn’t randomly land in the wrong timeline?!?) Right? He gets the names he’s supposed to get, and he shares them. Change. He gets the treatment necessary for the boy, change. He saves Jackie’s mother’s life, which totally changes, literally everything about Jackie’s future. So much so, that she doesn’t recognize him anymore. They hadn’t even met a day or two ago. That was different timeline. 

But regardless, we see several key instances of changes in the timelines as the movie progresses. As I said before, Jackie is the first one. Another would be that Jack’s death at the hands of Becker earlier in the timeline. But think about it. 

The Jacket Movie Theory 4 – The Becker-verse

Ok. Right hook, out of left field. Remember when Jack and Dr. Becker are talking in the future – in 2007? And they are talking about all the patients that Becker killed, and the tragic effect that he has had on these men? Becker, as he’s turning away, says, “We’re all dead Jack.” Why did he say that? Hrmmm. More interesting? After, Jack says to him, “All those guys… they stay with you, all of us, we haunt you.”

So what if, Jack is just a ghost, preying on the soul of a murderous doctor? And What if Jason McGregor is also torturing him? What if Ted Casey is too? What if these are just torturing souls chasing Becker for revenge for the evil he exacted in the name of his science? I don’t know – there’s sort of a beauty in that one my friends. Kinda digging it. Why?  Because it spins the entire story from minute 5:00 onward on its head. 

Final Thoughts on The Jacket

I’d heard about this movie for years. And you guys have brought it to me several times before – but for some reason, here I am now. (Something changed downstream in my multi-verse, I’m sure.) The easiest way to see this movie is through the eyes of a dying man’s incoherent ramblings. Lack of oxygen to the brain, what have you. But there are other really good theories here that could also explain Jack’s experience. Personally? Although I spent HOURS creating the graphic for the multiverse theory, the late breaking theory that Jack is just a ghost has stuck with me. I don’t know how to explain the Jackie portion of this theory though. Is she dead too? Died in the fire with her mother? Dunno. She’s a ghost whisperer like Malcom Crowe in The Sixth Sense? But if you don’t get too hung up on the details of the movie, it’s an enthralling story. Well worth your while.

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