Deja Vu (2006)

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Drama / Mystery / Science Fiction / Thriller
Touchstone || PG13 - 126 minutes || November 22, 2006
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-11-23

.:: F I L M ::.

Director: Ridley Scott
Writer(s): Bill Marsilii & Terry Rossio (written by)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Bruce Greenwood, Adam Goldberg, James Caviezel

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Note: This review contains minor spoilers.

Hollywood’s been obsessed with time travel movies and though not many get released each year, the one’s that do make it through the process tend to borrow heavily from the classics of yesteryear. The latest is the Jerry Bruckheimer (aka Midis) produced spectacle, re-teaming director Tony Scott and Denzel Washington in Déjà vu, a movie that wanted to be slick and clever when instead it’s disinteresting, soulless and clunky.

The shame of it is, even though movie trailers are made to bring out a movie’s highlights, with a name like Denzel Washington attached, you at least expect a solid film, not award worthy, mind you, but some solid entertainment. I will give the film credit for providing at least some entertainment value, but there’s little else here that I find great.

Washington stars as ATF Agent Doug Carlin, called in to investigate the bombing of a riverboat that killed over 500 people in New Orleans. The lead FBI agent on the case, named Pryzwarra (Kilmer; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) brings Carlin onboard to lend his expertise where, he’s told, using high tech cameras, combing through footage at the ferry and try to find the bomber.

Being the smart agent he is, Carlin proves there’s more to what they’re telling him. Pryzwarra reveals that the U.S. government accidentally stumbled onto a way to see into the future (4½ days to be exact), and this bombing was their first case. This leads into the obligatory senseless explanation of how this is done, this time using the same logic used in 1998’s Event Horizon (folding a piece of paper).

After just starting his investigation, the body of a young woman washes ashore with burns to her body, which Carlin believes was another casualty, but discovers she was found an hour before the explosion... The lovely woman, Claire Kuchever (Patton; Idlewild) is somehow involved and soon enough, Carlin falls in love with a woman he’s never met (alive anyway).

There’s not much in the way of character development outside of the standard lonely detective aspect, something overused and in this case when the plot fails to deliver, there’s little else to grab onto. As usual, Denzel Washington delivers another good performance perhaps turning lemons into lemonade, and because he’s naturally charming -- I caught his appearance on “The Tonight Show” promoting this --, any failure with his character lies with the director or writers.

Déjà vu clocks in at 126-minutes and with a vast majority of it making Washington either run around town or stand in front of giant computer screens. Don’t get me wrong, Washington has enough screen presence that he could read an encyclopedia and it’d still be fascinating, but this movie demonstrates it’s more about the sum of its parts than just one man and one cannot blame it on lack of talent either.

Val Kilmer, James Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) and character actor Bruce Greenwood (Eight Below) all are certainly talented, yet when even the main character gets no development, the supporting cast suffers even more. You get the idea that Greenwood, as the agency’s head honcho, is the typical D.C. bureaucrap, but what’s Kilmer? Or Caviezel as the right-wing terrorist; I still don’t understand his motivation, of course, maybe that’s the point (i.e. rationalizing the actions of an irrational individual).

Tony Scott helms this sci-fi/action yarn and does away with his erratic style used for Man on Fire and Domino. Gone is the gritty picture and jerky editing motions replaced with relatively safe and straightforward storytelling. Although I liked Man on Fire, I like this move since the story already is already hard to follow (while watching, at least) and the fact it was obnoxious in Domino, a film which was also void of heart and soul, much like Déjà vu. Scott’s films tend to be that way, though. Other than MoF, even the films I liked of his such as Crimson Tide or Enemy of the State, they’re not exactly movies you recount for their ingenuity (however, Enemy is interesting for its prognostication of Big Brother).

Déjà vu isn’t necessarily a bad movie, more disappointingly executed than anything. Denzel Washington once again excels with these kinds of roles so you can expect to like him, but the rest of the movie doesn’t perform to the level of a ‘good’ film. I can only imagine this got the green light because of Jerry Bruckheimer because outside of the talent, the story itself has direct-to-video written all over it (hell, I could see Cuba Gooding Jr. headlining that version).

Overall, as I said, it’s not a good movie but some might find it entertaining enough as a time-filler. I expected more from this group of talent so it goes into the disappointing column in my book because one would hope that Tony Scott and company wouldn’t have to (heavily) borrow from time travel flicks that have come prior.