Jacob’s Ladder (2019) Movie Review
By: Justin Hopkins
A Co-worker lent me the original and while I enjoyed it. Thought it would make a great remake. A great story, with psychologically disturbing element to it. Just knew if they came at it from a different approach, they could do something special. When I heard about that one was indeed being made, was excited, but as quickly as I heard, it kind of vanished. Read it was coming to theaters, but it turned out to select theaters and kind of slipped by me for a bit. Now, here we are. A little late to the party, but that is okay. The only question, is was it worth the wait? So, lets travel the ladder, and breakdown Jacob’s Ladder.
The movie starts out with a soldier, being triggered into a flashback, by the sound of a can crushing under his foot. Can became a bomb, and helicopters and flashing lights. All stopping when he took a drug. Only, to have what appeared to be choked out from behind in one moment, and overdosing the next. Two people dragging his body away after he died. We jump to a military base, where Jacob is talking. Feeling is slightly uneasy. He goes to make a call home, and find out he is going to be a Father, when he has to leave, cause a wounded soldier is brought in. Turning out to be his brother, and as the sound of a flatline comes in. We see Jacob in a surgery room, in a hospital. Lost a person and the sound triggered the previous flashback. We see he has a happy life, with his Wife Samantha and son Gabriel. Except, he is having nightmares of a firefight. After he arrives at the hospital, another Soldier has an Overdose, and like the first. He too, is taking the drug. On his way to the therapist, he runs into a homeless Vet, who claims that his Brother Isaac is not only alive, but in the city and is in danger. He doesn’t believe it, nor does his therapist. On the subway he experiences his first hallucination, and when he gets home. Is attacked by two men. One of which is horribly mutilated. He tried to take the second to the police station, but he is not in the trunk. Except the same vet is there, and this time, Jacob takes him seriously. Is going to take him to Isaac, and starts to explain what H.D.A is. A drug that targets traumatic memories in those with P.T.S.D. Except, it makes them crazy, and people are hunting them down. Before he can get finish. Is pushed in front of a train. When no one believes him. Jacob takes it on himself to investigate and after a few jumpscares. He finds Isaac, except the paranoia and as the line between truth and fantasy gets even wider. We find that nothing we have seen is how it is supposed to be and I will leave it there.
(I am putting this here as a secondary warning. If you are planning on watching this movie and checking this out first to see what others think. Would suggest not going further cause I am going to talk about the twist and can ruin the experience of watching it unfold.)
This movie.. tries to pull off a wild swerve, and I didn’t see it coming till the big reveal. Which is that Jacob was the lost brother, on The Ladder all this time, and Isaac was the V.A.Doctor the whole time and The Ladder not only was wiping out the traumatic memory, but making him believe that he was his brother the whole time. Now, I think it was creative, but the process of achievement was very sloppy. There wasn’t a gradual change in the characters, but a rough and rugged one, Samantha especially, cause she was coming off more unlikeable the more we saw her. They really could have used a bit more time to show a natural shift of Samantha and Jacob being the coupe to Samantha and Isaac, but that was not the only problem. An even bigger one, was what Jacob did immediately after, by going to the red head we saw earlier.
She turned out to be a dealer of sorts, working with Hoffman. This scene felt so tact on, because they wanted to bring in more from the original Jacob’s Ladder with her demonic angel wings. The problem is that they were telling a completely different story and it no longer fit the narrative. Would have been better to skip the scene all together and go to Hoffman, or the very least, show her with the wings earlier, and not have them here.
Now, this movie wasn’t all negative. There were some good things as well, and thing I loved was the message that this was telling. They really got the Flashback scene at the beginning of the movie right. The smallest surprise of a loud sound is all it takes to trigger a flashback. Showing how many soldiers suffer from PTSD. The lengths some will go to make the memories stop and how susceptible they are to people like Hoffman. Who is using them like lab rats. A pretty powerful message to have.
Acting wise, you have Michael Ealy playing Jacob and Jesse Williams playing Isaac. I did enjoy their chemistry when they were together. About to building up the brotherly bond between the two. Each had difficult roles, because they had to pretty much switch on the fly. While they pulled it off, Nicole Beharie didn’t. Don’t want to point the finger at her. Maybe if she had more time, would work better, or might be better if I watched it again, but first opinion; she wasn’t that good. Lastly, I did enjoy Guy Burnet’s Hoffman. He seemed like a throw away character till the end, but I did enjoy his speech at the end. As twisted as it was, legitimately believed that he was the only one doing anything for the vets.
Would I suggest this movie to someone? A question that has been floating back and forth since the movie ended, and even all the way through this blog. I enjoyed some of the acting and I liked the message with the P.T.S.D. In a way, it did keep the spirit of Jacob’s Ladder, but only as far as the drug is concerned. The demons were more tacked on to appease the fans of the original and used as nothing more than a jump scare than anything. And the swerve, while creative, wasn’t executed well and I am sure there are better movies that tackle the P.T.S.D. side of things. With that said, I would suggest checking it out. It’s not a movie for everyone, you can have a bit of fun with it, and I did enjoy watching it. And that is all I got. I hope you enjoyed and as always…
Thank you for reading.