Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Tim Robbins in Jacob's Ladder (1990)

Most psychological thrillers take great pleasure in pulling the rug from under the audience’s feet in the last act, toying with expectations. The it’s-all-a-dream, no-wait-it-isn’t “twists” that conclude both Audition and Trance are testament to a genre that’s all about the mindfuck.

Jacob’s Ladder never pretends there’s a rug in the first place. Early scenes in the disorientating bedlam of wartime Vietnam or the nightmarish shadows of a deserted subway station make it clear things aren’t quite right. Jacob (Tim Robbins, impressive in a challenging role) is witness to haunting visages of half-men who lurk in the doorways of house parties or leer from speeding cars. A palmreader tells him that his lifeline implies that he’s already dead. The film’s true nature is barely concealed.

But this is no puzzle to be solved: Jacob’s Ladder is sometimes elegiac, sometimes chilling, sometimes mundane; it’s part horror, part war movie, part spiritual contemplation and totally uninterested in telling a traditional narrative. Accordingly, the weakest parts are in the middle stretch, where a story about government conspiracies and hallucinogenic drugs saps momentum.

The film’s strength lies in its murky miasma, a collection of memorably macabre images whose potency is heightened by their inexplicability.

Rating: 148/200

2 thoughts on “Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

    • Late reply sorry! Been a busy week – thanks for the comment 🙂

      It’s definitely very creepy; the creepiest moment for me was the faceless figure staring out of the side window of the car as it sped past. Everything in the film is just a bit off, creepy in a way that you can’t quite explain. Which is fantastic!

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