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Jacob's Ladder

A movie directed by Adrian Lyne

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Guy goes to war. Guy comes home. Guy sees demons trying to hit him with a car. Boo.

  • Mar 11, 2011
**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, it's only decently executed. The film has a purpose; and it's not pretentiously making an attempt at message-making. This makes it MUCH better than most faux psychological thrillers, but frankly, the thing didn't work as well for me as it did with others. I suppose it's an OK, and it's definitely entertaining, but this is not the thriller I've wanted to see for so long. It's ingenious, intelligent, and has a good character; but in the story department, the thing kind of falls flat. On the bright side, the twist ending isn't particularly disappointing; and the visual design is great. Sadly, it's not as consistent as I would have wanted to be. But the film had a David Cronenberg sort of feel to it; and I liked the moments in which I felt this. If you're in to cinematic acid, then this is solid stuff. It's not as powerful, involving, and intoxicating as some cinematic acid trips tend to be, but it's good enough to at least entertain me. The thing feels genuine; and it's actually pretty well made, in spite of its flaws. It's just that the thing as a whole doesn't function perfectly; and it's never as scary or brilliant as it quite wants to be. But hey; at least it's entertaining. I think it's worth watching in some instances, but it's pretty forgettable. Keep that in mind. And who knows; you may or may not like it more than I did. I know a lot of people who are really in to it. I kind of am myself. Well, at least visually. But I wasn't completely immersed in the thing. But as always, I will not deny it when a film is well-made. This film IS well-made; it's just not my type of thing. Not completely. I would have loved to have enjoyed the thing more, but if more effort had been put into the body-horror aspect, then I have a feeling that "Jacob's Ladder" would have grown on me easier. As it is, it's somewhat involving; just not as good as some people led me to expect it would be. But what can you do; that's life. I see stuff like this all the time. And at least this flick could entertain me (nearly) throughout, and keep me somewhat interested through the visual design. A lot of effort was put into the production in that sense, but not so much in the plot department. That's just too bad.

A Vietnam War Veteran returns home and has to deal with the demons of the world. He thinks this will only happen for a few days; but soon comes to think that the hallucinations and voices are never going to stop. The plot consistently shifts from his life "now" to his life in the war. The film makes damn good use of that aspect, and the supernatural stuff is thrown in as an attempt to enhance the quality of the film. And you know what; it does. Rather than linger on war violence and such; "Jacob's Ladder" is a diabolical cinematic experience. It's a film that is better felt than told; better seen than experienced. It's not a compelling story, but it does have a good character. Our Vietnam-Veteran is a likable fellow who is haunted by hallucinations and demons. If only the demons had attacked him more consistently AND in more inventive ways, then "Jacob's Ladder" could have been even more entertaining than it already is. The thing occasionally gets boring whenever the story runs out of things to say. There are some high points to the flick, but never is it horrific, scary, or suspenseful enough to be compelling. It's no classic, but "Jacob's Ladder" still has some merit to it. The thing is well-crafted; and I have no true problems with the story myself. Others will enjoy the tale that this film tells; and there is indeed a message to it, but it's not a strong one. The story relies too much on clichés to be a solid aspect of this film's minor success, and what's really taking center stage here is the visuals. The film is visually unpleasant at parts; and these are the scenes that I can honestly say that I loved. The film aims to be body-horror, and in ways it is a success. But it's not as good as "Videodrome" or "The Fly", just to name two great body-horror films. Those two films are compelling and powerful. "Jacob's Ladder" is not. At most, it's just an entertaining little visual trip through mental hell. I kind of admire it in a sneaky way; and then again I kind of don't. I won't call it good, but I definitely enjoyed the film. It's somewhat of a recommendation, although the film had too many flaws for me to truly love it. But there's some good stuff to look at anyways.

Tim Robbins just isn't my favorite actor. There's just something about him that I can't get over; but he's like John Wayne for me. I don't particularly like him, but he can perform well anyways. "Jacob's Ladder" sees Robbins in an uncommonly eccentric performance. There's something that I honestly found endearing about Robbins and his mentally disturbed persona. It's nothing memorable; but it's also nothing short of honest. This is a solid performance from the performer. The supporting cast is also pretty good. You get to see actors such as Ving Rhames, Matt Craven, Elizabeth Pena, and Macaulay Culkin all in the same damn movie. Isn't that great? Yeah, kind of.

Visually, this film is, without a doubt, an experience. I have no problem with that. In fact, I love a good visually oriented horror/thriller. And this film is entertaining; but at the expense of its potentially interesting story as well as a good number of its characters. Yes, this is style over substance. And we're talking about a lot of style here, so yes; it still has some redeeming factors. As I said with the visuals, they are wonderful to look at. Repulsive, yes, but never enough so to be worthy of missing out on. Unfortunately, I expected the visual sequences to come in larger supply. The film often trades opportunities to show demonic activity with plenty of dialogue; none of which really goes anywhere half of the time. The film works on a stylistic level; the atmosphere works and so do the visuals, but it fails to develop as a story, a character study, or even a genuinely memorable movie. In a whole, it's pretty decent. It's entertaining in an almost heartless way, but then again, it's enough that the thing is entertaining to begin with. Yes, I enjoyed it. And yes, I will be forgetting it. "Jacob's Ladder" is decent entertainment, but nothing more. I will not say that it wasn't smart; I will only say that it didn't work for me. It had potential; but wasted too much of it. But at least I still enjoyed myself whilst watching it.

A little less effort and "Jacob's Ladder" could have been a bore. I admittedly enjoyed the visually-driven, gleefully trippy sequences, but there just weren't enough of them to make this film unique. I do agree with most of the film's admirers; it's a misjudged film. Some say it is bad and pretentious, and I only agree on the second part. This film IS pretentious. It tries to have a great, sophisticated plot and fails miserably at that. It's a visual delight- as long as you find disgusting fascinating a delight-, and it's not all that bad at the end of the day. It's not art, but it's definitely entertainment. And in some ways, that's good enough for me. But the movie still doesn't quite know what it is. I appreciate it; I admire it; and I admit that I enjoyed it. At least for the most part. But it can get boring really fast; and that is just one of its many flaws. I don't have a problem with "Jacob's Ladder"; I just don't think it's brilliant. It's smart, taut, and well-directed. But never fascinating. As of now, there's very little that could have made the film better aside from an extra emotional kick as well as more visual scenes. The visuals are repulsively fun to look at, but they never tell their own little story. Aren't visuals supposed to be interesting in that way? Yes, they are, and that's why I said that "Jacob's Ladder" was "entertaining in a heartless way". I am an honest man; and I meant every word of that. This film is heartless, yet it has a heart. And it's also decent; but never bad. I can live with that. "Jacob's Ladder", at best, is an entertaining little movie with a few good spills and chills. At worst, it's a disappointment. But I guess I have to deal with that. It's sad, but true; "Jacob's Ladder" is creepily effective but overall-forgettable flick. I somewhat recommend it, and then there's this other part of me that urges you to see something better. Perhaps you should save it for a rainy day? I think that's a damn good idea.

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March 11, 2011
I actually really like this one still excellent review as always.
More Jacob's Ladder (1990 movie) reviews
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 . November 01, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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.

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[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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