Review: Deja Vu

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Aptly titled, Déjà Vu is an edge of your seat roller coaster ride, but one you’ll be convinced you’ve been on before.

 

(It must be good for our stingy reviewer to give it three Black Stars)

ATF Agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is one of the first feds on the scene following an explosion aboard a ferry shuttling members of the military and their families between New Orleans’ Algiers and Canal Street piers.

Over five hundred passengers perish in the fiery inferno, and Doug suspects it to be the work of a terrorist as soon as he discovers traces of a weapon of mass destruction amidst the charred bodies bobbing in the water and washing up along the banks of the Mississippi River.

In fact, he has an uncanny knack for identifying material evidence, since everything he touches seems to fill in another piece of a puzzle which is totally baffling the local police. Then, Carlin’s already admirable efforts are augmented immeasurably when he is joined in the investigation by FBI Agent Andrew Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer). For Pryzwarra is privy to a top-secret project at headquarters which enables the government to observe anyone anywhere via a complex series of interconnected satellites.

For some reason, the tape-delayed system always shows events on the screen, which transpired precisely four days and six hours ago. This means that all the authorities have to do to crack the case is point their time machine at the pier from which the ferry embarked and watch until the mastermind (Jim Caviezel) appears.

However, the plot thickens when Doug posthumously becomes obsessed with one of the victims, a pretty young woman named Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton). Upon closer inspection, not only does he discern that she was dead before the bombing, but that she probably had contact of some sort with the perpetrator. He also becomes smitten with the curvy cutie after watching her undress and take a shower courtesy of this marvel of modern technology.

So, instead of waiting four days to figure it all out, Agent Carlin comes up with the bright idea of teleporting himself back in time to try to prevent the attack from ever happening. Of course, the FBI scientists all object, but capitulate after warning Doug that he’s risking his life, because the process is yet to be perfected.

This preposterous premise is the point of departure of Déjà Vu, a dialogue-driven, sci-fi adventure directed by Tony Scott. Heavy-laden with pretentious, pseudo-scientific jargon about “worm holes� and “space folding in upon itself,� the movie marks the third collaboration between Scott and star Denzel Washington, following earlier outings in Crimson Tide (1995) and Man on Fire (2004).

Best described as a cross between Minority Report (2002) and Frequency (2000), this slight variation on the time travel theme will engage you to the extent that you are able to forgive a script that repeatedly relies on cartoon physics to explain away every improbable plot development. The movie cleverly mixes the former’s “catch a crook before he commits a crime� idea with the latter’s more sentimental notion of “going back in order to save a loved one.�

The film was shot in The Big Easy post Katrina, but generally avoids exploiting the devastation as a backdrop except for an extended scene through the Lower Ninth Ward. The supporting cast includes Elle Fanning (sister of Dakota) who makes a couple of cameo appearances in an insignificant wraparound role.
Aptly titled, Déjà Vu is an edge of your seat roller coaster ride, but one you’ll be convinced you’ve been on before.

Very good (3 Black Stars). Rated PG-13 for sensuality, disturbing images, female frontal nudity, and intense terror violence. Running time: 128 minutes. Studio: Touchstone Pictures

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