Posted by: dailymovierec | January 17, 2008

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

I admire Robert Ebert as a film reviewer not because of his fame, but because I like his attitude towards movies. Yes, he is a film snob, but he always views movies with a fresh perspective and, more importantly, he admires movies that take risks. In a film culture today that rewards banality (take note of our past few summer of sequels), it’s good to have critical superstars gunning for the movies whose reach extends beyond their grasp. Jacob’s Ladder is a prime example of this. A great psychological thriller that predated the trend by a good 8 years, this movie spawned a lot of great movies (The Sixth Sense, Memento), and a lot bad ones (Fear Dot Com comes to mind).

What makes this movie most effective are two things: 1) It’s believable, and 2) it’s scary as hell. While some of the special effects are a bit old hat now, at the time this movie was made, they were fairly unheard of, and borderline revolutionary. Not to spoil the surprise, just know that seeing some of these images in their raw form, rather than in a glut of CGI, can make for some rather disturbing surprises. It’s a fun ride, with an appropriate ending.

While I enjoyed it immensely, Jacob’s Ladder is not without its shortcomings. In an attempt to recreate the sensation of a man losing his mind, the film takes some artistic liberties, and more often than not, muddies the plot to a point of confusion. For me, this added to the effect. For you, it might not. The love / hate split of reviews on this movie speak to this effect.

It’s a genuinely scary movie (rarer than you think), it’s thought provoking, and it’s well executed. Definitely worth a shot.


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