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Climbing the ladder
Jacob's Ladder
I won't go into the level of spoiler that virtually every other reviewer seems compelled to use when they talk about this film; this is a film that needs to be experienced with as little foreknowledge of its "meaning" or its final revelation as possible.

I remember being Very Angry with Newsweek's reviewer when he mentioned the title of a classic story in his review, with the result of completely telegraphing the end of the film to anyone who recognised the title mentioned.

As a non-combat Viet Nam veteran, myself, i can attest that the film makers catch the mood and feelings of a sizeable percentage of Nam vets pretty well.

The overall mood of building confusion, dread and paranoia, as Jacob Singer's life becomes more and more strange and menacing, is well handled -- is Jacob suffering from some sort of bizarre post-traumatic stress disorder, or is it something more?

A few hints: Think carefully about all references to or appearances in the storyline of Jacob's dead son. Listen to what the characters say. Don't take the Nam sequences as necessarily absolute truth.

Among the DVD extras are various cut scenes; i'm glad that they were cut, as thry seem to tend to both cater to the "gross out horror" element and to literalise certain aspects of the film that i'm just as happy to have left at least partly obscure and metaphorical.

In fact, there are a few places where i might cut a bit more, if only for pace -- the gurney sequence, after Jacob is ordered taken to X-Ray from the Emergency Room, is too long and somewhat repetitive; i would guess it could be shortend by a third or more without negatively affecting the story and with amarked improvement of the rather glacially-slow pacing of that part of the film.

Tim Robbins gives Jacob an appropriately befuddled face, and Danny Aiello is his usual more-than-competent self as an oracular-sounding chiropracter.

Not necessariy a film for those who like everything neatly explained and all the back story available before the end, this is still a thought-provoking and disturbing little exercise in the dark side.