Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Reviewed on 2007 February 06
This is one of the most disturbing movies I’ve seen.
Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a Viet Nam vet, shell shocked by a brutal assault on his platoon. He’s trying to piece his life back together, working as a mail carrier and living with his girlfriend Jezebel (Elizabeth Peña). He keeps seeing horrible visions, churning demons, following him. Jezebel is sympathetic to a point, but she just thinks he’s crazy and admonishes him to get over it. Jezebel can’t understand what the war, or the loss of his son Gabe (Macaulay Culkin) and divorce from his wife, did to Jacob. The only one who really seems helpful to him is his kind-hearted chiropractor, Louis (Danny Aiello).
The poor guy really thinks he’s losing his mind until one day one of his fellow vets pours his heart out to him, breaking down and saying he’s going to hell, based on the hideous things he’s seeing. Jacob reunites with some of the men from his platoon (a great ensemble, including Eriq Lasalle and Ving Rhames) who are seeing the same horrible things. Enough of them are being tormented by the same visions and have the same shaky grasp on reality that Jacob decides they can’t all be going mad. He tries to figure out what really happened to them in Nam.
This movie successfully snakes back and forth between reality and fantasy, and when I first saw it in the theater I couldn’t see any of it coming. The special effects are effective in every sense of the word, from the big-guns stuff like the hospital scene to the little touches like that horrible bureaucratic nurse. The acting is convincing and the score works. Adrian Lyne should make more frightening movies. This is one that will keep reasserting itself behind your eyes when you try to go to sleep at night.
Three chocolate morsels.