Now I'm not going to lie, when I heard there was going to be a remake to Jacob's Ladder, I was both intrigued and a bit nervous. The basis of that story made sense for the time period. There are the some rumors of the government testing on soldiers that were in Vietnam. Going from that, I was curious if they were going to update it or just do a straight remake. To get into the review of this film, after his brother returned home from war, Jacob Singer (Michael Ealy) struggles to maintain his sanity. Plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks, Jacob rapidly falls apart as he can no longer tell what is real.
We start this film off with a guy who freaks out. He goes down an alley and we see him drink something from a small container. We then see someone choking him, but we aren't sure what is really happening. There are some hallucinations we are seeing. He is then drug down the alley by two guys.
It then shifts to a desert. It doesn't specify if this is Afghanistan or Iraq, but we are seeing Jacob as he tries to cool down. There's an emergency and he's a military doctor. He has to leave when it turns out the person on the operating table is his brother, Isaac 'Ike' Singer (Jesse Williams). This turns out to be him having a flashback while he's in the operating room. He is married to Nicole Beharie and they have a child together.
Jacob is dealing with PTSD for what he went through while serving. He visits Louis (Ritchie Coster) who is a psychiatrist. There are a lot of unresolved issues with Ike, who was seeing Jacob's now wife and his death is also affecting him. Things take a turn though another veteran, Paul Rutiger (Joseph Sikora), tells him that his brother is still alive. This leads on a dark journey to subway tunnels where other homeless vets are living. There's a drug they're using to help with their PTSD. The problem becomes there, they hallucinate and not completely sure what is real or not.
Now I wanted to go a little bit vague here as there's not a lot of depth to the story if I'm honest. I've already expressed my issues with this film being made, but I will admit, there are some things that I like here. I like the idea of them updating it. An issue that I have though is with attempting to update this film; we are losing the element that the government could be involved. There also wasn't rampant drug use by soldiers either. I do like the idea of this experimental drug though that is being used to help their PTSD, as this is definitely a real problem.
Going from that though, I almost wish this film would have been marketed with a department name. For me I can separate what happened in the original from this one and it really isn't necessarily a true remake. This one is actually much easier to follow if I'm completely honest. There are subtle hints that if you are paying attention, point to the truth of what is happening here. That is actually some pretty solid writing there. It also does have a more definite ending than the original, but that becomes an issue is that it didn't stick with me to think after it ended.
The other thing I really like this film looks at is how some soldiers, like Jacob, are dealing with things that they can't handle on their own. We hear about it all the time with veterans coming back and not being able to express the issues their having. PTSD is real issue and I could actually see some of the things happening here. I just don't feel this film carries the emotional impact that it really needs.
I think part of that comes from the acting. It is interesting as I normally really like Ealy. There's something that is just missing from his performance for me. The same can be said for Williams as well. I haven't seen him in as much, but everyone across the board was just flat. I wanted to feel sorry for them, but it just wasn't there. I think part of it could be the stretch for these two at the reveal of what is really happening in the movie. The rest of the cast just is kind of there as well, which is surprising, because I've seen Coster and Rutiger in other things where they're good too.
Another aspect that didn't help was the pacing. This film runs about 90 minutes, but it never grabbed my interest. It could be that the drug that is causing all of this issue isn't explored enough. I'm almost thinking this should have been focused on more, as this film doesn't explore if the supernatural things we are seeing are real or not and without connecting with the characters on a level, we would need to have something that keeps driving the story. It just seems to meander. The reveal isn't bad and I actually though it works, but it just goes back to me not connecting to care.
That moves me to the effects of the film, which even though they are pretty heavy on the CGI actually aren't that bad. I thought the look of the demon like people were good. There are still some odd things where people are moving fast that I can forgive. I do know a lot of people have issues there. There are some practical effects, but the film didn't really use a lot. The film is shot well outside of that.
Now with that said, this film I came in with some low expectations and the film actually lived up to them. I tried to look at this film on its own and I think it does enough to separate itself. I like the updating of the story and the changes made to Jacob. The problem is that I didn't connect with characters, the film kind of meanders and just never really did anything to hook me. It is really a shame, because the social commentary is very relevant to both the original time period and our current world. I just think they focused on the wrong thing here, as it becomes the major problem in the end, but we don't spend enough time on it. The effects were fine. The soundtrack didn't really stand out to me, but it never took me out of the film. Despite its running time, the film is just boring. The positive things that I got out of it are few, so I will say that this film is below average.
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