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Deja Vu Review

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by Casimir Harlow Apr 27, 2007

    Deja Vu Review
    Although not to everybody's tastes, I have always favoured Director Tony Scott's style, or over-style, of direction. Over the last few years he has pulled off a few movies where the old adage style over substance tends to apply (Enemy of the State, Domino), but has also done two of my favourite movies of all-time, the excellent Robert Redford spy thriller Spy Game and the superior revenge thriller Man On Fire, starring the ever-great Denzel Washington. Both of those ooze style, but thankfully have the substance to match. When I heard that he had taken on the futuristic thriller Déjà Vu, again partnering with Washington (for the third time after Crimson Tide), I knew that it would be worth watching.

    Warning: if you know absolutely nothing about the story, it is probably well advised you check it out first, skipping to the technical details of this review. Whilst it may not be the most deep thriller, it certainly is a more enjoyable ride when you don't quite know the destination.

    After a terrorist bombing claims the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians, ATF (That's Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms AND Explosives) Agent Doug Carlin is assigned to find out what happened. With the vested interest of the murder of his partner thrown into the mix, he joins an elite taskforce that are using state of the art technology to try and track the bomber, and identify and apprehend him. With a bank of mainframes and monitors, they purport to be able to view reconstructed 3D images of the bombsite and surrounding area through use of combined satellite imagery. It's preposterous, but that's ok because Carlin isn't having any of it. He knows something's not right when he finds out that they can only look at images that are four days old. And they can only view them once. Smelling some time-distorting shenanigans going on, he finds out that - in an Event Horizon way - these space cadets are capable of folding space-time and can thus look into the past in 'real-time'. Although they've never tried actually sending a human being back, you just know what Carlin is itching to do.

    “All I know is this, for all of my career I've been trying to catch people after they do something horrible. For once in my life, I'd like to catch somebody before they do something horrible.”

    Déjà Vu is Tony Scott dabbling with Time Travel. It's not a million miles away from Minority Report in style, with the same fusion of futuristic and predictive (retrospectively in this case) technology and the same mix of stylish action and race-against-time pursuits. If you think too hard about it you're going to come up with far too many plot holes and loops, but if you cut the time travel stuff some slack, it's actually quite an enjoyable ride. The cast do a good job of holding everything together, not least the lead Denzel. I go out of my way to watch movies with him in them and, from Training Day to The Siege, Devil In a Blue Dress to Fallen, I have not been disappointed with him in any of them. The trouble is, after his powerhouse role in Man on Fire, I expected more from a re-teaming with Tony Scott, and even he looks slightly dubious as to what is going on in this movie. In addition, his character is flawless and super-smart, your archetypal super-cop who can pretty much do everything by himself - crime scene, forensics, port-mortem, tracing the bomb - he knows more than any of the experts and is still capable of acting humble and taking orders. He also happens to be one of the worst drivers that I have ever seen, but that's ok because he's normally driving something like a Humvee or an Ambulance, so little things like other road users and causing mass pile-ups become relatively insignificant when you're 'pursuing the truth'. Ok, it's not Washington's finest, but he still brings a certain charisma to any movie, and can make you root for even the most stereotyped hero, as is the case here.

    The lead female spends most of the movie as the subject of a fairly voyeuristic surveillance team, but relative newcomer Paula Patton does well at giving her apparently doomed character an attraction that warrants the interest she gleams from Washington's Agent. On the special taskforce itself we have a slightly pudgy Val Kilmer playing it by-the-numbers, and acting opposite them all on the side of evil is the mysterious bomber, played by Jesus himself, James Caviezel. With a few other vaguely recognisable bit players (Bruce Greenwood and Adam Goldberg), the cast is rounded out, and generally they all contribute towards making the movie a more enjoyable experience.

    It's Tony Scott at the helm of course, so you're guaranteed shootouts, explosions and flash photography throughout. This one takes it to the next level however, with the fast-cut surveillance footage that they all observe almost being used to excuse his mad camerawork. Still, it works quite well here, and certainly makes the movie never less than utterly stylish. It's fluid, fancy and fun to watch. You're not going to get a headache following the story (that is, unless you try and find logic in it), you're going to enjoy the state-of-the-art bang-bangs (there are several massive explosions that are truly fantastic to behold) and the twisting narrative cracks along at a suitably thrifty pace. If you're a Scott fan then this is well worth your time, it's not as meaty as Man on Fire, or as clever as Spy Game, but it's more enjoyable than Domino. And it's not a bad choice to release exclusive on Blu-ray.

    “What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world, but you knew they'd never believe you?”