The Jacket

Recommended with Caution. A thought-provoking postmodern film that uses the questioning of reality and dreaming as a vehicle to face our mortality and make the best out of life. But it is a dark thriller, with a couple inappropriate flashes of nudity in it. Adrien Brody plays a good guy Gulf War vet who is picked up hitchhiking and has a near fatal head injury when the driver kills a cop. Brody’s character, Jack Starks, has amnesia and is framed for the shooting, and because of his amnesia and bad Gulf War experience he is labeled criminally insane and ends in an insane asylum. While there, he undergoes some rather controversial “therapy” called “the jacket” that is likened to sensory deprivation by a behavioral psychologist, Dr. Beck, played by Kris Kristofferson. But the jacket experiences in some bizarre twist of reality, enable Jack to time travel into the future, where he meets and falls in love with a girl from his past who has grown up, played with swanky hardness by Kiera Knightley. Jack’s search to discover the cause of his death in the past by researching the facts while in the future has a very fatalistic edge to it at first, but ends up with a hopeful worldview of freedom to change behavior. What I liked about this film was how it portrayed Dr. Becker, the behaviorist and physicalist, who believes that our problems are the result of chemical imbalances. This whole worldview is shown to be the darkness that it really is, and it shows the toll even on the doctor as we see him always taking drugs himself to calm himself down. In other words, behaviorism and sociobiology are slave systems for worldviews, and they deny the strength and responsibility of the human will. And guess what? They are still creeping around the halls of our institutions. I met a sociobiologist when I did research at a hospital for the criminally insane. These social engineers, these “world controllers” are nothing more than Monsters in white lab coats. Or as C.S. Lewis said, they are torturers in the name of compassion because of their worldview that defines our beliefs or behavior as resulting from our chemicals. Therefore, they must experiment with our chemicals “for our own good” to get us “better.” I just read in a Wired article about a sociobiologist criticizing 12 step programs as destructive while he offered his instant gratification chemical solution to solving addiction, entirely ignorant of the human dimension of who we are. These Nazis actually think they are helping us. As Becker says in the film to Jack that he puts him in a bizarre torture device that it is “with every intention of helping you.” Jack replies, “That justifies it?” I guess you’d call modern psychology “Compassionate Fascism.” Another thing I liked about this film was its postmodern use of questioning our notions of reality. A doctor tells Jack, that “his mind doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between reality and delusion” and yet, the reality is that THESE scientists, these modernist social engineers are the ones who are deluded in their understanding of reality. I consider that to be a profound truth about our society that worships science and it’s high priests. I also like movies like this that make us face our death because it wakes us up to what is really important in life and whether we are using our time wisely. One of the inmates says, “I’m in here because of a nervous condition. Who wouldn’t be nervous to look at themselves?” In other words, this isn’t about crazy people, it’s using crazy people as a metaphor for ourselves. After all, we are all a bit screwed up, if we are really honest with ourselves, eh? At the end, Jack says a string of things, some of which sounded like gobbledy gook, some of which I caught and appreciated. He says, “Life can only begin with the knowledge of death. When you die, there’s only one thing you want to happen. You want to come back.” Very true. As the clock ticks down to Jack’s death that he knows will happen soon, he seeks to help several others in a way that changes their lives forever for the better. And that’s what makes this otherwise dark movie into a hopefully realistic movie. Jack discovers a woman’s life is going to be lost through her own negligence and he seeks to convince her that “things are not as bad awake as they are asleep” (Another obvious metaphor to the woman’s addicted lifestyle and hardness of life). And then the very end of the movie is the phrase spoken by Jack’s love interest, “How much time do we have?” In other words, we don’t have much time, our deaths are imminent, so make the most out of this life, live it, and love others, don’t squander it. Because Jack’s interactions with people bring redemption into their lives, this movie transcends the desulatory nihilism of fate that other time travel movies sometimes promote (such as 12 Monkeys). One thing I did not like about the movie was its negative view of God that they just had to force into the dialogue. Out of the blue, this sociobiologist, Becker tells Jack, “I’ll say a prayer for you, Jack. Maybe God will pick up where medicine left off.” And Jack replies, (that is, the hero of the story), “Sure you know where to find him?” This of course is the traditional nihilism that sees the suffering universe as without God. Later, Jack finds Becker at church. He tells him, “How does that help? God doesn’t remember?” Well, this is a great line of conviction upon a man who does evil to people and tries to escape his guilt, but considering the fact that they are linking it with a bad guy, that makes it a negative indictment of Christianity, not merely abused religion. Especially since the hero manifested his negative attitude toward God. If you don’t portray good religion in a story, just bad religion, then you are saying there is no good religion. The irony is that it should have been the other way around. The hero should have had some kind of religious faith in the dignity and freedom of man – because THIS IS THE ONLY LEGITIMATE OPPOSING BELIEF SYSTEM to the secular humanistic vision of behaviorism. Christianity is the only worldview that gives humanity dignity and value. It was not consistent with Becker’s belief system to go to church because sociobiology has no place for religious beliefs as truth. To them, it is a chemical abberation. The only way that would have worked would be to make the hero a man of faith somehow, so that the villain’s hypocritical pursuit of religious atonement becomes a validation of the truth of the opposing viewpoint, rather than just another jab at religion in general. But alas, you can only write from what you believe and if the filmmakers do not have redeeming faith, they would certainly not understand the true answer. So, it results in a humanistic work your way to heaven redemption of loving your neighbor. So, I guess it’s half true. But of course, a half-truth is still ultimately a LIE.