A ferry filled with crewmen from the USS Nimitz and their families was blown up in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. BATF Doug Carlin is brought in to assist in the massive investigation, and gets attached to an experimental FBI surveillance unit, one that uses spacefolding technology to directly look back a little over four days into the past. While tracking down the bomber, Carlin gets an idea in his head: could they use the device to actually travel back in time and not only prevent the bombing but also the murder of a local woman whose truck was used in the bombing?
Directed by: Tony Scott
. Starring: Denzel Washington
, Paula Patton
, Val Kilmer
, Jim Caviezel
, Adam Goldberg
, Elden Henson
, Erika Alexander
, Bruce Greenwood
, Rich Hutchman
, Matt Craven
, Donna W. Scott
, Elle Fanning
, Brian Howe
. Music by: Jared Lee Gosselin
, Harry Gregson-Williams
If you're going to make a film with a ridiculous premise, nonsensical sci-fi talk, and its share of clichés, it damn sure better look pretty. Fortunately, Tony Scott helms this disaster waiting to happen -' the same man who last year made me retract my absolute hatred for MTVesque film-making with the wickedly stylistic Domino. So, yes, for the record Déjà Vu looks pretty sweet. Not a bad action-thriller ride either.
Scott goes out of his way to give the opening credits a surreal quality starting with the double-take on the Bruckheimer logo, continuing through the ferry disaster that resonates with an abstract almost montage vibe, and ending with the deliberate slow motion introduction of Denzel Washington's character, Doug Carlin. Dare I say it's "dreamlike" in a review for a movie wearing the name "Déjà Vu?" I honestly expected a character to wake up from a nightmare -' you know the overused cliché. Well, the narrative does suddenly in fact take on a more objective perspective not unlike the sensation of waking up; however, the events at the beginning of the film still stand. Doug Carlin still has a serious crime to solve, and a long road ahead of him.
From there, Déjà Vu goes through some obligatory police procedural motions, and fortunately doesn't bore with them. It drives towards setting up its premise as quickly as possible while Denzel Washington spices up the dialogue with his upbeat character with a knack for being two approximately ten steps ahead of his contemporaries. This, naturally, catches the attention of Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) who recruits him for the top secret investigation from which the film gains its title.
There exists a window into the past where the characters in the present can watch the events of four days before from a free-roaming perspective within a certain radius. The catch? It plays in real-time, and they can't rewind. This opens the second, most fascinating, act of the film -' where Doug Carlin observes one of the victims believed to be directly tied to the bomber. And Tony Scott masterfully exploits the possibilities and limitations of this setup of observation without interaction.
Such as the wonderfully composed scene where Doug Carlin stares at the face of Claire ( the victim) as she was four days ago -' alive, alone, and oblivious to the fate that awaits her in a few days (her time). Carlin stands with his back to the camera, behind him Claire's face fills the frame, and across time a bond forms between these characters who have never met. Even though the fruits of these seeds won't be reaped until later, this is where the goal shifts from catching the bomber to saving Claire's life.
Every thriller needs a chase sequence, and Tony Scott presents one of the most unique chases since the French Connection. Carlin, in the present, locates the bomber in the past, and has to track him in the past -' literally having to give chase to something that happened four days before while facing today's rush hour traffic. And despite the fact Carlin cannot stop the villain even if he catches him, and the fact that Carlin (and the audience) already know the ultimate outcome -' Tony Scott still manages to inject this chase with his trademark intensity as the question shifts from "what happens?" to "how does it happen?" from "who is the killer?" to "where are the bodies buried?" Unfortunately, Déjà Vu goes a little overboard in its (numerous) explanations, and it recycles dialogueexplanations that sci-fi fans have memorized regarding the warping of space-time not unlike folding a piece of paper to bring two separate points together. It really wasn't necessary nine years ago in Event Horizon, now it's just obnoxious.
Déjà Vu also goes precisely where the mainstream audience would want a sci-fi thriller to go. At least Déjà Vu recognizes its own indulgence to the mainstream -' the bomber's been arrested in the present, that's it. Case closed. The people on the ferry and Claire are beyond saving. Right? The lead scientist character, Denny (who was in charge or reciting most of the Sci-fi mumbo-jumbo) answers the phone not surprised to hear Doug Carlin on the other end. "I knew you'd be call." That's it. Cut to Denzel Washington getting ready risk life and death to go back in time and save Claire hours before she's scheduled to die.
While the third act is more than competently directed, providing some excellent action sequences topped off with a satisfying finale ... it's still traditional thriller. It never matches the brilliance of the second act where the ingenuity comes not from limitless possibilities, rather the limitations, themselves.
Review by jaywolfenstien from the Internet Movie Database.