Jacob’s Ladder (1990) A Psychological Thriller often overlooked – here’s why.


This film was always on my list of films to see and review, the very fact that it was released twenty seven years ago doesn’t damage its credibility. Tim Robbins pre The Shawshank Redemption plays the titular character Jacob Singer. He is a recently divorced Vitenam veteran living in New York, now living with his girlfriend whom he met at his U.S postal job. He still grieves for his son who died  tragically before leaving for Vietnam.

We learn that in Vietnam a major battle experience happened which still haunts his memories and mind. He begins seeing things and hallucinates a lot and is observed as the psychotic that nobody believes.  He believes demons are following him which he sees on trains, cars and night clubs. Suspecting something bigger is at work and the U.S Army is holding secrets about the comrades her served with he then comes into contact with veterans. He tries to unravel the mystery. The veterans and lawyer who wanted to help Jacob now back out, adding to the conspiracy that Jacob has about the Army.

Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer

There is a lot going in this film whether it be Jacob’s hallucinations or his girlfriend’s stubborn strength to tolerate Jacob’s thoughts.

All things are revealed in the climax of the film and we fit the pieces of the puzzle together or do we? That’s where the strength of the film lies and what director Adrian Lyne has done with the screenplay. There are multiple ways to view the ending or do I dare say endings. The director forces the viewer to question the film’s own reality. Are viewers hallucinating for the two hours they watched the film or did the film’s events happen as it was presented. It is a film that holds up. Slow at times but that can be overlooked because slow moments built characterisation of Jacob and established the world of this Psychological Thriller.

It’s overlooked I’d argue because Tim Robbins was not a huge leading man in 1990. Even to this day, he will be relied upon in supporting roles. The director Adrian Lyne was known for his sensual thrillers like  9 1/2 weeks and Fatal Attraction, perhaps audiences were becoming tired of Lyne. The film didn’t do well at box office but grew a following over time.

In order to understand the genre of Psychological Thriller click here for a breakdown of codes and  conventions.


Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer

Elizabeth Pena as Jezzie

Danny Aiello as Louis

Pruitt Taylor Vince as Paul





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