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The Jacket

Brilliant Brody Goes Back to the Future

Adrien Brody has an on-screen presence that's impossible to ignore, whether he's playing a tortured witness to the Holocaust in The Pianist or an enigmatic killer in Oxygen. In The Jacket, he is totally persuasive as Jack Starks, an Operation Desert Storm veteran who is wrongly imprisoned in an asylum for the criminally insane. Once there, he is subjected to a radical treatment that allows him to travel in time, revisiting his troubled past and lurching forward to a future in which he has already died. It's a complex tale that doesn't always add up, but Brody handles his part in it deftly, conveying his character's inner turmoil with every pained gesture, every tormented utterance. He lends credibility and weight to a movie that might otherwise have seemed overwrought.

It doesn't hurt that Brody is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast: Keira Knightley, as Jack's sultry love interest; Kris Kristofferson, typically feisty as the morally ambiguous Dr. Becker; and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dr. Lorenson, who slowly begins to suspect that Jack's fantastic tales of time travel aren't so crazy after all. All of them deliver fine performances, and it would be easy for any star to pale in the company of such seasoned character actors. Brody never does.

The story itself is clever and original, albeit far-fetched. Jack is caught in a race against time, trying to change the future for himself and his loved ones, and while his efforts are only partially successful -- leading to a bittersweet conclusion that's bound to leave some viewers frustrated -- his struggle is both tense and moving. The beauty here is in the details: There are heroes and villains in The Jacket, but none slides easily slide into one category or another. They are thoughtful characters of convincing emotional depth, and the decisions they make can be as maddening as they seem to them logical, determining the future that Jack is desperate to change. In the end, their unpredictability makes for an enthralling morality play, with a payoff that's both depressing and oddly uplifting.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5