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Introduction
Jacob’s Ladder represented something of a change of direction for Adrian Lyne, who had previously directed Flashdance, 9 ½ weeks and Fatal Attraction.  Jacob’s Ladder is a difficult film to pigeonhole into standard genres but is actually one of a handful of films which invites the viewer to unravel the facts from a plot with many twists, turns and uncertainties.

Many film fans are not keen on plots that mess with your mind and prefer instead to watch simple Hollywood movies that please, but are soon forgotten.  This could well be one of the reasons why this was by no means a box office smash, but if you are a fan of such films, then this is definitely worth a viewing.

Jacob’s Ladder
Movie
The film is based around the belief, strongly denied by the US Government, that American troops in Vietnam were subjects of the testing of hallucinogenic drugs.  The lead character Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a Postal worker who has regular flashbacks to his time in ‘Nam’ and also begins to have other visions which further cloud reality.  We follow Jacob on his path to discovering the truth, be it Government and Military cover-up, or his own psychological disorder.

The film begins with footage in Vietnam where Jacob’s unit is stationed.  All is fairly light hearted until an imminent attack coincides with some of the GIs showing signs of a strange illness.  From then on, we follow the life of Jacob and his partner Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena) a few years later.  Many strange things start to happen to Jacob with several near death experiences, each with haunting images, coinciding with further battlefield flashbacks detailing the events immediately following the opening scene of the film.

As the plot progresses, we meet a number of other characters who both help and hinder Jacob’s quest for the truth and at the same time introduce more plot twists to confuse and intrigue the viewer.  We meet other veterans of the conflict in Vietnam, as well as Jacob’s ex wife and his children.

Jacob’s Ladder
The imagery of the film is often fairly gruesome, especially in Jacob’s flashbacks and visions and will have the easily shocked turning away or looking for someone/thing to hide behind.  This is, however, fairly essential to the plot and allows us to feel the gravity of Jacob’s plight and that of the other Vietnam vets.

The film flows quite well, with more information and plot clues regularly fed to the viewer and is a tribute to the screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, and solid performances from Robbins and Pena.  It certainly manages to captivate and intrigue the audience far more than some recent efforts such as Vanilla Sky, whose cast were of far more interest than any plot(s) to be found.  I don’t, however, believe that Jacob’s Ladder has the lasting impact of some of the best films of this type such as Fight Club and The Usual Suspects, which are still talked about a long time after first viewing and which prompt further viewings to help unravel the plot and spot the clues.

Video
Momentum have supplied us with a 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen transfer, which if I am honest is slightly disappointing. My major frustration with this transfer is the unbearable amount of grain on show. Even the best transfers out there can contain minimal amounts of grain, but this transfer has high levels of grain throughout. Compression artifacts are also evident, but not outrageous and thankfully there is little sign of edge enhancements. As for the colour reproduction, it seemed reasonable, but due to the large number of dark scenes this was not an area which got severely tested. Black levels appeared solid throughout. Overall a slightly disappointing transfer.

Jacob’s Ladder
Audio
There are three soundtracks included with this release. Two are foreign Dolby Digital Mono tracks (German and Spanish), while the track I took particular interest in was the English Dolby Digital 5.1. Jacob’s Ladder is not the type of movie to make full use of a surround system, so the 5.1 soundtrack is slightly restrained. Dialogue is audible throughout and keeps a good level even when the creepy musical score kicks in.  Ten different languages are accounted for in the subtitles section, so chances are most region two viewers will find their own language.  

Extras
The only extra on offer with this disc is the trailer, which lasts for just under two minutes. As far as trailers go, the one included with this release is actually pretty good.  I don’t normally mention menus in my reviews, but due to the sparse extras I’ll make an exception here. The menus are quite creepy and set the scene for the movie, however Robbins did remind me of Harry Potter in the images, which added a unintentional humorous side to them.

Jacob’s Ladder
Overall
I would recommend Jacob’s Ladder to anyone who is a fan of this particular style of film or of the film’s stars.  I enjoyed the film, but it isn’t one that I, personally, would buy, or watch many more times. As for the disc it is safe to say I have seen better, but considering the retail price of this DVD, that’s not really a surprise. Jacob’s Ladder has built up a cult following and I am sure it’s fans will snap up this disc, unfortunately I cannot see a better version coming in the near future, so they will have put up with this average release.


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