Jacob’s Ladder means to be a harrowing thriller about a Vietnam vet (Tim Robbins) bedeviled by strange visions, but the $40 million production is dull, unimaginative and pretentious.
Writer Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) telegraphs his plot developments and can’t resist throwing in supernatural elements that prompt giggles at the most unfortunate moments. Right from the battlefield prolog in Vietnam, where members of Robbins’ battalion act strangely and throw fits, it’s clear that somebody messed with their brains.
Robbins, whose earnest and touching performance belongs in a better film, spends most of the story struggling to understand the ‘demons’ pursuing him back home in NY.
Director Adrian Lyne adds nothing fresh visually or dramatically to previous film and TV depictions of troubled Viet vets’ psyches.
Living in a dim, dingy apartment and working in a dronelike postal service job, Robbins was wrongly told by the army that he was discharged on psychological grounds. His very existence denied by the Veterans Administration, he thinks he’s possessed, but eventually pieces together the truth with the help of his battalion buddies.