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Blu-ray review : ‘Jacob’s Ladder’

Messy headtrip of a movie but a beautiful looking, sounding Blu-ray from ViaVision.


A headtrip – Adrian Lyne was obviously flush with success after Fatal Attraction and wanted to do something with a bit more high art. Problem is, it’s too high for most mortals to understand – worse still, Jacob’s Ladder (1990) to be one of those films about which that’s the idea.

A nerdy postal worker (Tim Robbins) is struggling to pull his life together in modern day New York. A Vietnam veteran, he starts having strange flashbacks, visions and nightmares, including own alternate lives where he hasn’t left his wife and his dead son is still alive.

Things get worse until old army buddies start looking him up with the same story. It turns out the US Army tested a biological agent designed to make soldiers more aggressive on his platoon in the war – the result being that they all killed each other in fits of wild rage.

Expecting something as lowbrow and commercial as an explanation is lower than the artistic m.o. is prepared to go, and things just get weirder. The final scene – where he is brought back to a HQ wounded after the rampage with his platoon and pronounced dead – means that everything else that happened in the film (his entire life in the present day) was a hallucination he experienced in a helicopter en route from the battlefield.

At least, that’s the only plausible explanation. If it’s wrong, the film has no point. If it’s right, the point is plain silly, even if imaginative.

Slow, brooding scenes and Robbins’ eternally confused look draw things out a lot longer than they need to be and the whole thing misfires badly.

The newly-released Blu-ray from Via Vision’s IMPRINT label is a stunning-looking and beautifully-sounding disc (no surprise, this crowd is making sure all their releases are peak quality) – with the DTS HD one of the highlights here.

Very welcomingly surprised to find extras on the BD here, including a commentary from Lyne which sorta helped explained what the ‘headtrip’ is about. Sorta. There’s also a featurette, some additional scenes with commentary by the filmmaker, and a trailer.

If you’re a fan, obviously it’s well worth the purchase.

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