JACOB’S LADDER (1990)

jacob-s-ladder-original

Christopher

This is the second time I watched this movie. It’s insane. And that’s really all I remember about it. This movie was kind of lost in the sea of films I would watch in high school. The only scene I really remember watching is where Jacob’s girlfriend is dancing with some monster.

Also, after seeing this film for a second time, I remember having the same feelings about this movie as I did watching Naked Lunch, another film I haven’t seen since high school. I think it’s due to all the non-computer-generated special effects. The weird monsters that show up and crazy hallucinations seem to be done with so much care and love? This is a weird film to be described that way but I think it’s true.

This film is crazy and weird but I like watching it!

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I loved Jacob’s Ladder, even though looking back on it I feel like I could just as easily have hated it because of the ending. I think that’s a testament to how good the rest of the movie is, and how good Tim Robbins is, though.

Firstly, I was really surprised to see that Adrian Lyne directed this. I’ve only seen half of the movies he’s directed, but one of them happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time, Lolita. Lolita is so atmospheric and kind of creepy but very beautiful, so I was really interested in how he would deal with something like Jacob’s Ladder, which is so far from being anywhere near Lolita. But I can definitely see the same traits in both – both movies make you feel sort of weird.

One thing that I had an issue with with Jacob’s Ladder was the timeframe. I don’t mind that it was fragmented or anything, but I didn’t know when the “present” was supposed to take place. Wikipedia says it’s 1975, so maybe I just missed that date somewhere. But since the movie came out in 1990 and starts off taking place during The Vietnam War, I was really confused about what time it was and how old we were supposed to think Tim Robbins was. But the ending kind of made all of those concerns not matter.

There are exceptions, but usually I don’t like a movie switching plots in the last few minutes, which, to a point, Jacob’s Ladder does. We find out in the end that Jacob died on a medic operating table in Vietnam, and pretty much the whole movie was in his mind, like his life flashing before his eyes. Normally, I hate that. But the way it’s explained in Jacob’s Ladder almost makes the ending a relief. Jacob is in so much pain, he’s so confused and sad. His doctor and friend tells him an interpretation of hell; that hell only comes from someone not willing to let go of their life when they die, and once they accept death they’re no longer in hell. With that in mind, it’s actually sort of great that Jacob died in Vietnam. All of the pain and confusion he felt during the whole movie was just his own process of letting go of his life, preparing for his death. It’s still sad that he dies. But when we see Jacob, for real, dead on the table, he’s sort of smiling. It’s hard to be sad when your protagonist isn’t.

Jacob’s Ladder was really intense but I was extremely pleasantly surprised with it. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to follow it or that it would have a hokey ending, but it’s actually really, really great.

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