The Jacket Explained (2005 Movie Plot & Ending)

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The Jacket is a 2005 science-fiction psychological-thriller directed by John Maybury. The story revolves around a war veteran suffering from amnesia who finds himself in an institution for the criminally insane. The illegal experiments that are conducted on him have an effect nobody in the facility expects. The cast is brilliant and has Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Daniel Craig, Kris Kristofferson and Jennifer Jason Leigh, to name a few. It’s a great catch-up film if you haven’t watched it yet. Here’s the plot analysis and the ending of the 2005 movie The Jacket explained; spoilers ahead.

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Contents

Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

The Jacket Explained: Timeline Diagram

the Jacket movie timeline diagram small
(click image to enlarge)

The Jacket: Plot Explained 

Who is Jack Starks, Jackie and Jean?

jean jack jackie the jacket

Jack Starks is a Gulf War veteran who happened to get shot in the head and survived. The injury leaves him with pockets of memories missing from his life. He is also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is dismissed from the force. 

A year later, in 1992, Jack happens to be walking past a drunk mother, Jean, and her little daughter, Jackie, stranded on the side of the road. Jack helps start the car for them. While Jackie is very thankful, Jean sends Jack away rudely. Jack lets Jackie keep his dog tags.

Who actually killed the policeman? What happened on the highway?

Jack walks further down and hitches a ride. While the driver seems to be a regular guy, it appears that he was being tailed by a cop and gets pulled over. Just as Jack exits the car, the driver shoots at the cop. A bullet from the police’s gun hits Jack. The driver kills the cop and leaves his gun beside Jack, who is unconscious. The authorities arrest Jack because it looks like he murdered the policeman. Jack’s memory problem makes it appear that he’s got mental issues and was the one who shot the cop. Jack declared insane and is sent to a mental institute.

Who is Dr Thomas Becker? What is he doing to Jack? 

Dr Becker has been taking it upon himself to conduct illegal treatments on his criminally insane patients to rid them of their need to commit crimes. Dr Becker and his team are perfectly okay to harm or even kill the patient because they consider them scum, even though they have a cerebral condition. In the case of Jack, he’s both innocent and does not have any mental illnesses other than his memory problems. Unfortunately, Dr Becker and his team have already decided that they need to fix Jack even if it kills him.

Dr Becker pumps Jack with a variety of drug concoctions prepared by him. After that, they strap him in a straitjacket and place him in a morgue drawer. While Jack is meant to have only hallucinatory effects, he eventually ends up travelling to the future by 15 years.

Who is Dr Beth Lorenson?

Doctor Beth Lorenson

Dr Beth Lorenson is a fellow doctor who is suspicious of the activities that go on in the morgue. She’s a good person and is currently treating her friend’s son, Babak, who suffers from a mental condition that has removed his ability to learn any new skill. She wants to help Jack.

Who is Rudy Mackenzie?

rudy

Rudy is a patient who suffered a mental breakdown after his wife left him for another guy. However, he prefers to go around saying that he repeatedly attempted to kill his wife. It appears that Rudy, too, has been put into the morgue drawer and has experienced time jumps, but Dr Lorenson’s suspicion results in Dr Becker having to stop putting Rudy in the morgue. It appears Rudy misses his time jumps, as it was an escape from the institution.

Here’s something about Rudy that I find the movie hasn’t addressed clearly – if all Rudy did was lock himself up and starve for two months after his wife left him, why was he brought to an institution for the criminally insane? It feels like Daniel’s character was placed to give the same effect as Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys but it got cut short.

Understanding the time-travel in The Jacket

Jack travels from 1992 to 2007.

When Jack is in the morgue drawer, he begins to simultaneously exist in the future as well. Typically, in time-travel movies, the person physically leaves at one time and reaches another. In The Jacket, Jack physically exists both in 1992 (in the drawer) and in 2007. However, Jack’s consciousness exists only at one time. When he’s in 2007, his body at the morgue in 1992 is without his mind.

The first time in the morgue drawer leaves Jack mentally abused, but he doesn’t travel forward in time.

the Jacket movie timeline diagram small
(click image to enlarge)

Time Jump-1: 24th December 2007

the jacket time jump 1

The next time Jack is tossed into the drawer, he gets transported to the future. Jack doesn’t realize the year and isn’t even sure if his experience is real. A young lady who happens to see Jack standing helplessly on Christmas Eve takes pity and gives him shelter for the night at her place. 

After she sleeps, Jack finds the dog tags he gave Jackie and sees that the bills mention the year 2007 on them. In disbelief, he wakes Jackie up and asks her for the year, and he says he is Jack Starks. Jackie is furious because she assumes the man she took pity on has gone through her belongings and is making up stuff to mess with her. She throws him out, saying Jack Starks was found dead on 1st January 1993.

Jack returns back to 1992 as they take him out of the drawer. He remains unconscious for a day. After that, he gets put into the Jacket again for creating a scene during the day-session.

Time-Jump 2: 27th December 2007

the jacket time jump 2

Jack meets Jackie, and this time she believes him because he couldn’t know the little details about that day on the side of the road by rummaging through her stuff. She also looks up more information about Jack’s death and says that Jack’s dead body was found with a wound to the head and that Dr Becker was exposed for the illegal experiments he was conducting. She also mentions the name Babak to Jack, saying he’s a boy that Dr Lorenson was treating back in 1992.

The two of them head to the mental institution and meet with Dr Lorenson, who doesn’t give much information. But we see Dr Lorenson realize that the person she just met is actually Jack from 15 years ago. And his claims of being able to time jump back in 1992 was the truth. Jack and Jackie fall in love. 

Jack returns to 1992 and tells Dr Lorenson that he travelled to the future. As proof, he tells her that the boy she’s treating is called Babak. Dr Lorenson is taken aback by this information but brushes it off as something Jack has learnt from snooping around.

Time-Jump 3: 29th December 2007

the jacket time jump 3

Jack is strapped into the jacket once again. He and Jackie find Dr Becker and confront him, asking him to confess that he killed Jack in 1992. But Dr Becker denies it. He says that the last time he put Jack in the drawer, Jack came out and listed Dr Beckers previous patients. Jackie asks Dr Becker for the names, and he tells them. Jack smiles, realizing that the information he’s going to give Dr Becker in 1992 after he is taken out of the drawer has been disclosed to him by the older Dr Becker in 2007.

Jack begins to fade, and he realizes his drugs are wearing off; he’s soon going to wake back up in 1992. He quickly asks Jackie for the address of her childhood home. 

Jack returns to 1992, and on being taken out, he recites Dr Beker’s ex-patients’ names. 

Saving Babak

Jack learns from Jackie that Babak was not slow but was suffering from seizures and that Dr Lorenson used electroconvulsive therapy to reset him. He gives this information to Dr Lorenson, who is shocked to hear it. By now, Dr Lorenson finds it hard to ignore the kind of information Jack has been presenting her with, so she goes on to give Babek the electroconvulsive therapy, and it works. Babek is cured.

Creating a new Timeline

Jack asks Dr Lorenson to take him to Jean’s house, and she does. He meets young Jackie and hands Jean a letter with details that say how she will one day fall asleep with a cigarette in her hands and die, and Jakie grows old all alone and miserable. Jean reads it, which is enough to change the course of events leading up to a new timeline where Jean is not dead, and Jackie grows old to be a happy woman.

The Jacket: How does Jack die in 1992?

While we are lead to believe that Jack was killed, he slips and hits his head really bad on the ice. He urges Dr Lorenson to put him into the drawer, and in all of her confusion, she complies because she trusts him. As she puts him in, Jack begins to bleed out. For the final time, Jack makes a time jump, and his body on the 1st January 1993 dies while his consciousness leaps forward 15 years, but this time to the alternate timeline.

 The Jacket: Ending Explained: An Alternate Timeline (Time-Jump 4)

the jacket time jump 4 ending scene

In the ending of The Jacket, Jack finds himself in 2008 in an alternate timeline where Jackie has a good life because she didn’t grow up an orphan. This Jackie doesn’t recognize Jack as she has never met him but still offers him a ride to the hospital. Jack is happy that he could alter the future for the sake of Jackie’s life, and the two of them drive away happily as strangers meeting again for the first time.

Hold on, I know, that looked like a happy ending for Jackie and everything, and it is, for this Jackie who is driving a much fancier car now. But let’s not forget that the original timeline still needs to exist with the events that transpired with Jack and Jackie. Because if it doesn’t, Jack could not have taken back knowledge about Babak or Jackie’s childhood address with him. If not for those critical pieces of information from the original future, Jack could not have created this alternate timeline – The Grandfather Paradox.

This new ‘happy’ future can’t replace the ‘unhappy’ one. Let’s take a little peek at what Jackie from the original timeline would have experienced, shall we? She already had a wrecked life. Then magically, a time-travelling Jack appears, and Jackie feels special and falls in love with him. The next thing she knows is that Jack disappears from her car and never returns after that again. What do you think this would do to Jackie? She would live years of her life hoping that Jack would come back to her, but he never will because he messed with time without understanding its consequences.

What did you think of The Jacket and its ending? Do leave your thoughts below in the comments section.

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