Aka – Jacob’s Inferno, Dante’s Inferno
I’ve heard so much hype about this movie, it’s difficult to imagine it living up to the mental picture I’ve held in my head for all these years. All I really knew about it was that it starred Tim Robbins as a Vietnam vet who experiences nightmarish flashbacks. Intriguing concept, but would it live up to the hype ?
Robbins plays Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet / former Doctor who gave it up to become a postman. He’s tired of thinking and has tried to move on to a simple life with his girlfriend Jezebel. His wife kicked him out and maintains custody of their two children, the guilt of his third child’s death still weighing heavily on him. As he begins to see demon-like creatures he starts to question his own sanity. Is it all in his head ?
As usual. Robbins is excellent in the title role. Not surprising, as he would go on to become an even more respected actor as the years went by. I was surprised to see appearances by ER’s Eriq La Salle and Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander. Both do well, as does the rest of the cast under difficult circumstances. Also weird to see Macaulay Culkin playing Jacobs youngest son, the same year he broke out in “Home Alone”.
I was very impressed with this film. Robbins really sells it, and the subject matter really adds to the mystery. While not strictly horror, the imagery is nightmarish enough to have inspired multiple films, including the Adrian Brody film “The Jacket” and especially my previous Horrorthon entry “Silent Hill”. It’s not difficult to see why this has become such an influential film.
The religious imagery is quite prevalent throughout, not the least of which is Jacobs girlfriend Jezebel and the mere notion of “Jacobs Ladder” in a biblical sense, referring to a ladder reaching to heaven. That, coupled with the frequent discussion of angels and demons leaves this film firmly routed in a religious background that lends itself well to its questions regarding the afterlife.
I didn’t expect to like this film as much as I did. Admittedly the subject matter is intriguing, but the Vietnam flashback angle has been done to death (no pun intended) and I wasn’t sure this would have enough of a fresh take to offer. I do have enough faith in Robbins and the reputation that preceded this film, and I’m glad I gave it a chance.
One idea explored by this film is the idea of the military covertly drugging its soldiers in the hopes of inducing an intense reaction of rage towards the enemy. This is an extremely frightening prospect, and one that is sadly rooted in reality. While I respect soldiers willing to fight for their country, the idea of the military using clandestine drug use is truly terrifying, perhaps more than the film itself.
In the end, there’s little I can add to the respect and lauding that has already been heaped upon this film. I’m not a big fan of war films, though this is certainly in a class of its own. The mystery draws you in until its twist conclusion hits you like a punch in the stomach. I’m very glad I gave it a chance and I highly recommend giving it a view on your own.
I assume this was a movie tie-in