In this exciting episode we take a look at two films that bend both the audience and the lead character’s minds, with Jacob’s Ladder and Shutter Island. Spoilers aplenty for both, so please don’t listen before viewing both of these films.
In Adrain Lyne’s 1990 film, Tim Robbins’ Jacob plays a Vietnam War veteran who is haunted alternately by flashbacks to a particularly traumatic incident during the war and by demons that seem to be manifesting around him. While it seems to be hinting that these lapses into disturbing imagery are a result of Jacob’s sanity slipping, possibly caused by a secret government drugging program, it makes very clear by the end that the film is indeed a hallucinatory episode caused by a fatal wound back in Danang. We can’t help but feel it’d be a markedly better film with a bit more ambiguity, and time hasn’t been overly kind to it. Still, a very strong turn from Robbins, then only really known for his comedy roles, as well the occasional shocking and effective horror imagery that’s been fairly influential in the genre is still enough to warrant one viewing, although it doesn’t reward repeat viewing as much as our other featured film/
For the purposes of science I went back and listened to what we’d said about this back in the heady days of 2010’s theOneliner podcast, and I’m partially surprised to find us all being marginally negative about it, largely in line with critical opinion at the time. So I was perhaps surprised to find myself enjoying it substantially more this time around.
We’re introduced to Leonardo DiCaprio’s seasick U.S. Marshall, Teddy Daniels, on a choppy ferry to the titular Shutter Island, a institution for the criminally insane, to assist in the hunt for a dangerous escaped prisoner, Rachel Solando, along with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). However it soon becomes apparent that Things Are Not What They Seem, with Teddy’s reasons for investigating morphing as the film progresses as his behaviour becomes as strange as the characters he’s investigating. The final twist, handily ruined by the trailers, sees Daniels accept that he’s created an elaborate fantasy as a way to cope with his murder of his wife, after she killed their children, and this larping exercise was one last roll of the dice to bring him back to reality before dropping him off at Lobotomies-R-Us.
This, it transpires, makes for a film that’s much more rewarding on repeat viewing than on a first run through, as knowing the exact details of the nature of the final reveal allows for a proper appreciation of the depth of thought that’s gone into the film. There’s a great many tiny, detailed touches that may not be apparent on first watch that are very clever indeed, and many of the points that seemed stylistically odd make rather more sense with the refreshed context. Add to that the terrific performance from DiCaprio and you’re left with one of Scorsese’s more accomplished latter works. Highly recommended.
Right, that’s your lot. Find your hook and sling it.
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