Jacob is a Vietnam veteran who has returned home to New York (I think it was New York... whatever, just Big City X). He had gotten a doctorate degree, been divorced, and is now dating a woman who works at the post office with him (despite his doctorate, yes). His life starts to go off has he begins to flashback to a certain day in Vietnam where his platoon was attacked and he, himself, was injured. His flashbacks begin to manifest themselves into reality, having an effect on his health and daily life. As to prevent giving away much else, the rest of the film is him combating his flashbacks and memories of his past.
I find it hard to limit myself to such a summary of this film. To really get a grasp on what I am going to try and explain to you, you really just have to watch it for yourself. This film is so heavily event driven that reviewing it will be hard without being able to directly reference certain events. I will try and express what I can anyway, however, as I feel this is a neglected film that needs to be heard.
Jacob's Ladder is for all extents and purposes, a film about a man's struggle within himself. While that is pretty generic sounding, you have to realize that it really is a man's struggle within himself. The genius of Lyne's work is that he makes all the events, no matter how disturbing, completely grounded into reality on some sort of level. This is very important in the impact of the film as it drives you so strongly convinced of reality until the last scene of the film.
The whole film is built off of dual meaning. While you are watching the film, every event is both significant in the life of Jacob as he perceives it, and as a symbol in the struggle he is having. I am trying to drive home to you that this film is a lot deeper than just gore and drama on screen.
I know the previous segment will be hard to follow without having actually seen the film, and I apologize that I really can't simplify it anymore. I needed to stress the importance of the symbolism so that people don't walk away feeling the ending as some sort of cop-out. That could completely ruin the whole film for them, and they don't even realize they are missing out on what they really just saw. Now I will discuss some of the more technical aspects I usually cover so that there is at least one part in this review people who have yet to watch this movie can grasp.
At first I was weary as the camera felt sort of dull and unmotivated to really capture any scene with any real form of emotion. However, I quickly found out how wrong I was as the film threw me into some of the most wonderful visuals I can remember seeing in recent history. The soundtrack is unmemorable (there might not even be one... that is how forgettable it is) and is the only truly real disappoint in my mind at the moment. That rounds off this review with a...
Notes: Hippy Scientists, No Post-Production Special Effects