Get Your Reps In: Tim Robbins Loses His Grip on Reality in “Jacob’s Ladder”

What to see at Portland’s repertory theaters.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Faceless monsters, unexplained fevers, disappeared friends, intentional continuity gaps…Jacob’s Ladder has all the makings of an “is this really happening?” thriller, all the while punishing the boyishness out of its protagonist (Tim Robbins). He’s Jacob, a New York City mailman haunted by Vietnam and family tragedy. Now, his reality appears to be gradually devouring itself.

Director Adrian Lyne (best known for erotic thrillers like Fatal Attraction) elevates Jacob’s Ladder beyond stock conspiracy thriller or mental-illness fable. For one, even when he’s effectively toying with demonic imagery, it’s not Lyne’s nature to go for full surrealism. On the contrary, scene after unsettling scene in doctors’ offices, bedrooms, and taxi cabs are lullingly grounded.

Thus the dogged search for truth fades. The audience is left to experience Jacob’s glitching, echoing narratives of family, war and redemption as something more elemental: the human consciousness’s absolute allegiance to story, down to the last nerve ending. Academy, Sept. 15-21.


Academy: A League of Their Own (1992), Sept. 15-21. Cinema 21: Contempt (1963), Sept. 14. King Creole (1958), Sept. 16. Cinemagic: When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Sept. 14. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Sept. 15, 17 and 18. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), Sept. 16 and 18. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Sept. 17 and 19. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Sept. 15 and 20. Freddy vs. Jason (2003), Sept. 17 and 21. Clinton: Gol Maal (1979), Sept. 19. Hollywood: Tokyo Pop (1988), Sept. 15-17. Showgirls (1995), Sept. 15-17. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Sept. 16. Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), Sept. 16. Invasion of Astro Monster (1965), Sept. 17. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), Sept. 17. Body Double (1984), Sept. 18-21.

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.