To label Jacob's
Ladder as a horror film does it an immense disservice.
Jacob's Ladder is a psychological/philosophical thriller/drama. How's that
for a label? Actually, it still doesn't do the film justice.
Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña,
and Danny Aiello
The film takes place in the early
1970's and tells the story of Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), who was wounded
in Vietnam. Recently divorced, Jacob now lives
with his girlfriend, Jezebel (Elizabeth Peña), who feels threatened
when Jacob thinks of his previous marriage and his son, who was killed when
hit by a car several years before.
Inexplicably, strange things start
happening to Jacob. He starts seeing strange creatures amongst the already
strange inhabitants of New York City. His war
buddies start dying in unusual "accidents." Jacob is worried that
he may be losing his mind and no one seems to understand how he feels, including
From out of nowhere, a man informs
Jacob that he was part of an experiment involving a mind-altering drug during
his time in Vietnam. His unknowing subjection
to the drug may be causing all of the "hallucinations." But, things
are going beyond simple hallucinations and Jacob's beginning to come unhinged
in a big way.
Robbins does an excellent job as
Jacob. He's awkward, emotional and very seriously troubled by the events
that take place. His performance allows the viewer to
sympathize with him and his feelings of loss and hurt. Peña's performance
is sexually charged and quite good.
Director Adrian Lyne, responsible for Fatal
Attraction, and screenwriter Bruce
Joel-Rubin, responsible for Ghost, manage to create a world from which there
appears no escape. The increasing paranoia and loss of hope that begins to
overcome Jacob Singer become almost palpable. It's an unnerving experience,
but if you're a fan of films that promise to deliver such a thing, it's great
to have one finally do it.
The only flaw to Jacob's
Ladder is that it is a tad confusing on the first
viewing. When I originally saw the film in 1990, I thought I understood it,
but my friend didn't. I ended up explaining it to her, but then I wasn't sure
of the explanation myself. We talked about the movie for weeks afterward, which
is a sign that the movie did something.
It's a film that is likely to provoke your thoughts on perception and life
and death. It's not a film for everyone, but if you think a movie that can
be called a psychological/philosophical thriller/drama will appeal to you,
then check it out.
Culkin, who went on to fame in the atrocious Home Alone series, appears
in flashbacks as Jacob's dead son, Gabriel. His name does not appear in
the credits. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)