My thirst for "mind meddling" movies has gotten me stranded ashore at the banks of thrillers. It has become a growing challenge to find something that will truly quench my desire for mind distortion. Psychological thrillers demand my attention which takes me away and gives me a pure, untainted break from work.
I remembered Jacob's Ladder, the original from the '90s. It was an exceptional movie and very raw. I wanted to watch the movie again but instead, I came across the 2019 remake. I never even heard about the remake. Made me wonder if they had figured out a way to mess up a good classic.
At first sight, the 2019 remake already is very different. The obvious difference is the more inclusive cast and the modern setting, which had me more than excited. The stories are very similar to each other and at the same time very distant. After watching the 2019 remake I have concluded that it should be labeled as "based on" rather than "remake".
Both the versions have a similar backstory. Jacob returns from war and slowly loses his sanity. But, the first scene in the 2019 version sets the mood for the entire movie. It already becomes obvious that the new version is going to be faster, more energetic, and thrilling compared to the original version.
I am writing this as I watch my pistachio ice cream melt. And I still can't decide which version did I enjoy more. I obviously am a little partial towards the original version...cuz it's the original. But at the same time, there is so much to appreciate in the newer version. They have very different tempos, the storylines branch out differently, and the involvement of supporting characters are vastly different.
In the original version, Jacob comes home from the Vietnam war. You are already thrown into his perspective, which is slow and mundane. You start falling in love with the sluggish lifestyle and the emotions he seems to hideaway is obvious to you and you feel it crawling under your skin. The relation he has with his wife feels visceral. The entire story of Jacob feels like a ticking time bomb. You can feel the ticking in your teeth, and you know something is about to explode.
The newer version is not as much about Jacob's story as it is about the people around him. Like Isaac, Hauffman, and his family. At least for the most part. I felt very disconnected from Jacob and I think it may have taken away the chance of appreciating the story to the fullest.
Only in the second half of the movie does Jacob really start synchronizing with the story. That is when I started to see things from a different perspective. The twist and turn of events were very exciting and thrilling. Unlike the more mellow original version. So much emphasis on PTSD and "HDA", that it seemed to have removed the "visceral feel" that the original version had.
I believe it is safe to say that both versions have their strong and weak points. However, I am going to lean towards the original version and call it the better one. Yes, the twist in the story of the 2019 version is very unexpected and thrilling, but it is very easy to disconnect.
On the other hand, the original version was very very raw. Very realistic. Very visceral. The story is just slow enough to keep you hooked and your mind wandering for answers. It is like the ticking of a wall clock that keeps you awake at night. A well-made psychological thriller, and very fitting to the category.