Jacob’s Ladder (1990/Lionsgate Blu-ray)
C+ Sound: C+ Extras: B- Film: B-
Lyne has been a director looking for respectability, but it has been mostly
elusive, even when he has done good work.
Like Tony Scott, he wanted each of his films to be event pictures and
after Foxes (1980) has that
trajectory for a while. Flashdance (1983) was a shallow film,
but a surprise hit, then came 9½ Weeks
(1986) which wanted to break sexual ground of some sort, but was kitschier than
anything else. Then he lucked out and
made the influential Fatal Attraction
(1987), a small release film that became a huge blockbuster and very imitated
course, most of the imitators were awful and the film was eclipsed by Michael
Douglas’ Paul Verhoeven hit Basic
Instinct (1992, which led to more bad imitators), so Lyne’s next move was a
film with ties to Vietnam. Though the subject had been covered as well
as possible, Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
limited its battlefield time to the opening of the film, then it reverts to
being a “coming back home” film as the title character (Tim Robbins in one of
his best performances) finds his perceptions slowly turning to uglier and
uglier versions of distorted reality.
is causing this? Is he losing his insanity? Is the world falling apart around him? Was the Vietnam experience so bad that it
has destroyed him? Is it something
demonological? The opening Vietnam scene is effective by breaking free of
the cliché that if a U.S.
helicopter shows up, you are safe and saved.
This was written by Bruce Joel Rubin when he was writing more
challenging works like Brainstorm (1983) before delving into commercial
silliness like My Life, Deep Impact, Stuart Little 2 and a film that should have had more of an edge, the
huge hit Ghost.
result is a good film that could and should have been great, all the way to the
end, but the film loses its way to a great extent in the end and that is why it
was received with mixed commercial and critical results. Lyne could not overcome the problems of the
script or the war, moving on to the gimmicky Indecent Proposal (1992), ill-advised remake of Lolita (1997) and vaguely memorable Unfaithful (2002) before fading from
the talk on top directors. Maybe he’ll
make a comeback later, but it has been all down hill since Jacob’s Ladder and he may never get material this interesting
the film out is its cast, including Elizabeth Pena (Transamerica), Danny Aiello (Do
The Right Thing), Ving Rhames, Jason Alexander, Eriq La Salle, Lewis Black
and an uncredited Macaulay Culkin. If
you have never seen the film, it is worth a look, but if it has been a while,
you might see new things in it.
1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image disappoints, looking like it comes from
both an older HD master and an older film print. This does not do justice to what works here,
especially visually and does not show off the work of Director of Photography
Jeffery L. Kimball (The Expendables,
Star Trek: Nemesis, Mission: Impossible II, Top Gun) to best advantage. The film looks better than this, even if this
look better than the previously released DVDs.
The DTS-HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix is a poor representation
and upgrade remix of the advanced analog Dolby SR (Spectral Recording) analog
system the film was originally mastered and issued in theatrically. The fine score by Maurice Jarre (Fatal Attraction, School Ties, Laurence Of
Arabia) could also sound better.
include feature length audio commentary by Lyne, Deleted Scenes and the
original theatrical trailer. When they
do updated extras, they should update the transfer as well.
- Nicholas Sheffo