Jacob’s Ladder is a horror movie as an ethereal journey. Most of the film takes place in the spiritual world reenvisioned as the concrete environment of New York City, where the soul of a dying Vietnam veteran named Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is lost and confused in the fleeting moments before death.
His journey to the afterlife stretches out into a tormenting series of flashbacks, visions, and eternal questioning. Like Dante’s Inferno, Jacob’s Ladder is a downward spiral: As the film goes on, Jacob’s visions become more and more horrifying.
Although at first the demons are vaguely glimpsed or only hinted at, soon Jacob is enmeshed in hell on all sides. Yet, despite the film’s often terrifying and unsettling visuals, Jacob’s Ladder is ultimately about coming to peace with one’s life.
It shows how Jacob, following the words of philosopher Meister Eckhart, burns away his memories and attachments so his soul can be freed.
Director Adrian Lyne grounds this spiritual journey in the everyday world, thus allowing us to feel closer to the events. By taking the familiar and making it slightly discomforting or grotesque, he achieves a sublime cinematic state where nothing can be trusted and almost everything is unexpected.
Maurice Jarre’s haunting and unsettling score perfectly supports the story.
Pruitt Taylor Vince
Eriq La Salle
S. Epatha Merkerson