7.5/10
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351 user 111 critic

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to discover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusion, and perception of death.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Anthony Alessandro ...
Rod
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Hospital Receptionist
Doug Barron ...
Group Leader
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Storyline

New York postal worker Jacob Singer is trying to keep his frayed life from unraveling. His days are increasingly being invaded by flashbacks to his first marriage, his now-dead son, and his tour of duty in Vietnam. Although his new wife tries to help Jacob keep his grip on sanity, the line between reality and delusion is steadily growing more and more uncertain. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The most frightening thing about Jacob Singer's nightmare is that he isn't dreaming.

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

2 November 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dante's Inferno  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$7,500,760 (USA) (4 November 1990)

Gross:

$26,118,851 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

All SFX were filmed live, with no post-production. For example, to achieve the famous 'shaking head' effect, director Adrian Lyne simply filmed the actor waving his head around (and keeping his shoulders and the rest of his body completely still) at 4fps, resulting in an incredibly fast and deeply disturbing motion when played back at the normal frame-rate of 24fps. See more »

Goofs

Even through Jacob doesn't finish shaving (he towels-off the remaining shaving cream off his face), he appears to be clean and evenly shaven. See more »

Quotes

Army Officer: Mr. Singer. What an appropriate name for a man who can't keep his mouth shut.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits roll over a grainy black and white photo of Gabe and Jacob crossing the street together. See more »

Connections

Referenced in New York at the Movies (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

MY THANG
Written by James Brown (as J. Brown)
Published by Unichappell Music (BMI)
Performed by James Brown
Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
More than a movie
5 July 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a superbly crafted film that transcends mere entertainment and becomes an experience much greater than the sum of its parts. When you watch this movie, you are unleashing a very powerful force that short-circuits your natural ability to remain in control. It is like hypnotism, you have no choice...you are unable to think, act, or even believe apart from the intense feelings Jacob's Ladder inspires.

Tim Robbins is Jacob Singer, a warm and genuinely likable Vietnam veteran who, in spite of earning a doctoral degree, chooses to find employment working for the U.S. Postal Service. We learn in bits and pieces as the plot unfolds that his service in Vietnam included a very frightening battle, and the events set in motion on that fateful day parallel what could be his descent into madness.

Jacob's life suddenly begins to resemble Hell. He is literally chased by confusion, fear, and death, he sees unbelievably terrifying images, has horrific experiences that whether real or imagined are too frightening to bear alone. His only comfort comes in the form of the woman he lives with, Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena), and his chiropractor, Louis (Danny Aiello). Each of these people's relationships with Jacob represent more than just the roles they fulfill in his life, they are absolute forces at battle for his sanity, and possibly even his soul.

His torment begins to include the past as well, the undeniable love he still has for his ex-wife and painful memories of his son Gabe, who died tragically in an accident (played by a young and virtually undiscovered Macauley Culkin). As all these elements of the past, present and future collide in shocking hallucinations, Jacob slowly begins to suspect he could be the victim of a secret Army drug experiment gone terribly wrong.

With a haunted desperation, he embarks on a journey to find out what on earth happened to him - only his visions / flashbacks / flashforwards have become so delusional that reality and fantasy are hopelessly interwoven and nothing is as it seems. All that is decipherable is good and evil, life and death. And at the end of his nightmare, all he has to do is choose.

That's all I will share of the story. I'm not going to do you the disservice of spoiling the experience this movie is. Suffice it to say, there is much more to know, and nothing left to tell.

Meanwhile, there is not enough that can be said of Robbins' performance...although he has had better roles, never before or since has he portrayed his own emotions so nakedly. This is director Adrian Lyne's best by far, and by the way he's no slouch (Fatal Attraction, 9 1/2 Weeks).

This is not a horror movie as some may think, it is human drama masterfully disguised as a supernatural thriller. The basic elements of Jacob's Ladder have been plundered several times in recent years. We have been suckered by flashy films with clever plot twists that cheat us on story, characters, and technical excellence. This film delivers all that and more. Movies like this are set apart from the rest of the pack because you don't just watch stuff like this, you feel it too.


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