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Jacob's Ladder

A movie directed by Adrian Lyne

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Jacob's Ladder - 1990

  • Nov 1, 2008
Pros: acting

Cons: predictable ending

The Bottom Line:
"And here you are, that's all that matters
'Cause heaven was waitin' at the top of Jacob's ladder"
~Mark Wills

One of the many obscure things that were hinted about during the Vietnam era was the use of chemical and biological warfare, by both sides.  The fact that our own government would subject people to a drug to increase their ability to become more aggressive seems almost unthinkable ... or does it?    Some of the things that happened over there, and some of the things that happened to our fighting people after they left over there, makes the idea that they were subjected to ‘some thing' after all.  Such is the story of Jacob Singer.

Jacob, home from his tour in Vietnam, is a mail carrier.  His life, before the war, was fairly simplistic until one gut wrenching day when a vehicle took the life of his small son, Gabe.  From that point on, his life began to unravel.  Then he went to Vietnam.   Needless to say, things got no better for Jacob.  During a particularly brutal conflict, he was wounded, and then sent home. 

Home now consists of Jezzie, a fellow postal worker, and a run down flat in Brooklyn.  Days and nights are filled with strange interludes of completely bizarre visions and actions, intermixed with normalcy.  Jezzie is his one beacon that keeps him grounded but even she is losing patience with his constant spaced-out attitude.  He finds minor relief from a chiropractor, Louis, for his crushing back pain.  Louis also hands out a good deal of wise words to try to soothe the worried Jacob.

When he meets up with a concerned friend, Michael, who gives him the information about the chemical agent he had developed for the government that they then used on their soldiers, he finally decides he isn't the one going insane; everyone is out to get him.  Meeting with some of his former army buddies, they decide to try to sue the government to gain information about the chemical compound that was used on them.

And, then, he wakes up in his old apartment ... in bed with his former wife, and sees his small son waiting for him.

Was this all some grand mind game or did it actually happen?

This was an incredibly diverse movie that covered all the bases.  It takes you from Heaven to Hell, with all the visual effects you could want ... or not want ... to see.  Especially the trip through the hospital corridor, which represents Hell.  The further he went, the more bizarre it got.  Other visual effects were equally intense, often causing a bit of queasiness with the vibrating heads and flowing scenes.   Another thing I appreciated was the fact that they kept true to the look of the area, especially with Jacob's hairstyle.  That was pretty frightening on its own, making me chuckle as I remembered those days.

Acting was well done by all involved.  Tim Robbins played a tightly wound Jacob.  I have never particularly cared for Robbins, but I enjoyed his work in this immensely.  You could feel his frustration, delusion, confusion, and occasional joy.  Jezzie was done by Elizabeth Pena, with all her fiery attitude.

Also involved were Danny Aiello as Louis, the chiropractor; Matt Craven as Michael, the chemist; Pruitt Taylor Vance, Eriq LaSalle & Ving Rhames as fellow soldiers; Jason Alexander as Geary, the attorney they contacted about the law suit; Patricia Kalember as Sarah, the ex-wife; and Macaulay Culkin as Gabe, the dead son.

Jacob's Ladder was directed by Adrian Lyne; written by Bruce Joel Rubin.  It carries a lot of different ratings but I would suggest a strong PG-13+ or NC-17, just because of some of the scenes and actions.   It was nominated for two awards.

So, is it possible our soldiers were given some mind bending drug that caused them to be more aggressive?  Or any other manner of chemicals?  I wouldn't doubt it one damn bit.


This movie is my submission to the Good Movies Write-Off 2, hosted by captaind


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More Jacob's Ladder (1990 movie) reviews
review by . March 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****     "Jacob's Ladder" is the kind of psychological mind-trip that will either confuse you or indulge you. There are those who will love it, and then there will be those who could really care less about the thing. Me, I think it's pretty solid. Not a good movie per se, but "Jacob's Ladder" is a visual feast, and has a couple very good and creepy moments. The problem at the core of the film seems to be the story, which is developed in all the right ways, but alas, …
review by . July 06, 2009
Personally, I love a movie or book that keeps me wondering "what the hell is going on?"  The first time you see this movie, it does that.  There are monsters, creatures, strange happenings and oddities all over the place.   Is all of this a flashback from Jacob Singer's time in Nam?  I spent just over a year in Nam and to be honest, I still have nightmares once in a while, so that is a possibility.  Are the critters real or only in Jacob's mind?  Well.......I will …
review by . March 21, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
I have to admit it, I am a sucker for a psychological film. I came into the movie not expecting much, and left the movie with my mind buzzing with possibilities.Jacob's ladder is a movie that deals with realities, demons, ghost's, hallucinations, and monsters. There are uses of these demon's that took me by surprise, because as apposed to normal shock-like scares this is more dream-like. When a movie begins dealing with the imagination, it can do whatever it wants, but good for us the director stayed …
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About this movie


Jacob's Ladder Directed by Adrian Lyne Produced by Alan Marshall
Bruce Joel Rubin Written by Bruce Joel Rubin Starring Tim Robbins
Elizabeth Peña
Danny Aiello
Jason Alexander
Ving Rhames Music by Maurice Jarre Cinematography Jeffrey L. Kimball Editing by Tom Rolf Distributed by TriStar Pictures Release date(s) November 2, 1990 Running time 115 mins Language English Budget $25 million[1]

Jacob's Ladder is a 1990 psychological thriller / horror film directed by Adrian Lyne, based on a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin. It stars Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello, and Jason Alexander. Actor Macaulay Culkin appears briefly in an uncredited performance.

Contents []


[edit] Plot

Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a U.S. soldier in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. When the story begins, helicopters are passing overhead, carrying supplies for what seems to be preparations for a big Viet Cong offensive. Without any warning, Jacob's unit comes under fire. The soldiers try to take cover but begin to exhibit strange behavior for no apparent reason. Jacob attempts to escape the unexplained insanity, only to be bayonetted by an unseen enemy.

The film then shifts back and forth from Vietnam to Jacob's memories (and hallucinations) of his son Gabe (Macaulay Culkin, uncredited) and former wife Sarah (Patricia...

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