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The Jacket (March 1/05)

The Jacket marks Adrien Brody's first leading role since winning an Oscar for his work in The Pianist, and if nothing else, the film allays any concerns that the actor might've gone soft since his win. There's certainly nothing safe or predictable about The Jacket, and although the film isn't entirely successful, it's hard to ignore the audaciousness with which the story unfolds.

The Jacket is virtually impossible to classify, as it's constantly leaping from one genre to the next - sometimes within the same scene. Without delving too far into spoiler territory, the film stars Brody as a war veteran named Jack Starks - a man who may or may not have killed a State Trooper during a routine stop. He's convicted of the crime and sent to a mental institution, where his treatment is overseen by the mysterious Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson). It's there that Jack is placed inside a drawer while sporting a straight-jacket, with the idea being that the isolation will allow him to effectively confront his demons.

There's more to it than that, of course - including a subplot involving a romance between Jack and a damaged waitress named Jackie (Keira Knightley) - but screenwriter Massy Tadjedin doesn't make it entirely clear just how all the pieces fit together prior to the end credits (and even then, there are still a few unanswered questions). As a result, it's impossible for the viewer to decide whether or not they're enjoying the movie until everything's said and done; many of the story's events initially seem so vague and random, giving us the impression that all of this must be leading up to something.

The Jacket essentially plays out as two movies: a slow-paced One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest style drama, and a bizarre, confusing sci-fi tale with elements of romance. Both have their moments, with the former occasionally threatening to eclipse the latter thanks to a fantastic performance from Daniel Craig as a fellow inmate. The romance stuff involving Jack and Jackie seems, at first glance, to be unusually pointless, but - like everything else in the film - answers do eventually come.

Though the film requires a lot of patience from the viewer, it's the performances that keep things interesting - even when the storyline is particularly baffling. Brody and Kristofferson are expectedly superb, while Knightley is surprisingly effective as the grizzled (and distinctly American) Jackie. And while the resolution is quite as mind-blowing as one might've liked, nobody could ever accuse The Jacket of being dull.

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