Friday 2 September 2011

Films: The Jacket (2005), and Alien Resurrection (1997)

The Jacket is a time-travelling film with an unusual twist or two. WARNING: some spoilers.

Soldier Jack Starks (Adrien Brody), seriously wounded in the 1991 Gulf War, returns to the USA and begins to hitch his way across country. After helping a mother and her young daughter with a car breakdown, he becomes inadvertently caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between a police officer and a criminal in which the officer dies. Starks is found guilty of his murder and sent to a mental institution where he receives experimental treatment involving drugs, a straitjacket, and sensory deprivation. During these sessions, he travels in time to 2007 where he meets and begins a relationship with the girl, now a young woman (Keira Knightley). He discovers that not only is the girl's mother due to die in the early 1990s, but so is he. His efforts to discover what will happen to him and to change the future make up the rest of the film.

This is an engaging low-key drama with Brody (whom I can't recall seeing before) putting in a convincing and affecting performance. I do have a small logical niggle: I can accept for the purposes of fiction the concept of someone time-travelling in a mental, non-physical way, or even travelling physically from one time to another, but Starks travels physically to the future while still leaving a physical body in the past, which I found a bit confusing. I understand that the film wasn't a commercial success, but I liked it and think it's well worth seeing.


I recently saw Alien Resurrection for the first time; I saw its three predecessors soon after they were released (Alien in 1979, Aliens in 1986 and Alien 3 in 1992). An 18 year spread from first to last with the same principal character in all of them (Sigourney Weaver as Lt Ellen Ripley) is quite an achievement.

Since Ripley died at the end of Alien 3, for Alien Resurrection she is reconstructed as a clone, 200 years later, from a blood sample she left shortly before her death. At that time she was a host to an alien queen and, in the cloning process, the two sets of DNA became mixed, resulting in Ripley having enhanced strength and speed plus corrosive blood, as well as a mental link to the aliens. The military scientists who clone her aboard a spaceship are primarily interested in extracting the alien queen from her in order to breed the species, but once the queen has grown it predictably escapes. The film then becomes the usual battle for survival aboard the spaceship with Ripley and a dwindling band of survivors trying not just to escape but also to prevent the aliens reaching Earth.

The original film rightly became one of the classics of SF, but this one adds little to it. There are no real surprises this time around, although Weaver dominates the film in a compelling performance as the part-alien Ripley. Worth watching if you enjoyed the others.

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