Jacob's Ladder | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


A bold, powerful psychological horror film about a recently returned Vietnam vet (Tim Robbins), apparently working as a postman in New York City, who's plagued by nightmarish paranoid visions. Thanks to a remarkable script by Bruce Joel Rubin (who also wrote the script for Ghost and the original story for Brainstorm) and the directorial skills of Adrian Lyne--who makes even more effective use here of an infernal vision of New York than he did in Fatal Attraction--this is both a stream-of-consciousness puzzle thriller that offers the viewer not one but many "solutions" and an emotionally persuasive statement about the plight of many American vets who fought in Vietnam--a statement that is more expressionistic and metaphysical than "realistic," but is no less compelling for that. One doesn't want to say too much about a film that depends on surprises, ambiguities, and many shifting levels of reality and consciousness, but there are moments when this disturbing, unpredictable movie recalls The Manchurian Candidate, albeit without the comic irony. Robbins fully meets the unusual demands of his part, and Elizabeth Pena and Danny Aiello are equally impressive. (Esquire, Evanston, Norridge, Webster Place, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, Ford City, Harlem-Cermak)

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →