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DEJA VU

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Bruce Greenwood, Adam Goldberg, Jim Caviezel
Director: Tony Scott
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Touchstone
Features: See Review
Length: 126 Minutes
Release Date: April 24, 2007

“You don’t have to do this.”

“What if I already have?”

Film ***

Time travel has been done in so many countless movies that one may wonder how many more times it can possibly be done. Well the reason is quite simple; all time travel movies come with their own special rules concerning the process of going back in time. I don’t know how many different concepts can be devised for all these movies, but kudos to the screenwriters who come up with them.

Déjà Vu, aside from having perhaps the single best title for any time travel movie, does apply something a bit new to the traditional time travel plot. And although every movie like this requires a great deal of suspending disbelief, you will have to suspend a huge amount of disbelief in order to enjoy this one. There’s a heavy dose of explanation of the rules of time travel, as even the hero is just as lost and confused as we are.

But I’m getting far ahead of myself, as the movie starts out as just a plain old murder mystery before switching gears into sci-fi mode. The movie opens with the devastating explosion of a ferry in New Orleans during Fat Tuesday. The blast kills everyone on board. It is clearly the work of a terrorist, and ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) intends on bringing the culprit down.

But his investigation leads to a number of dead ends. When Carlin realizes that the owner of the car that contained the bomb was killed before the explosion, he may have no chance in finding his suspect. But then he’s approached by FBI agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer), who thinks he could be helpful in a new elite task force he’s put together, one that could prevent the event from happening.

Ah, but how can a crime that has already taken place be prevented. It turns out that Pryzwarra’s task force has found a way to look in on events precisely four days in the past. By way of a window that serves as sort of surveillance monitor, they can look anywhere in a desired place, search for clues and hopefully help to alter the present. Obviously, they’re looking to stop the ferry explosion from ever happening.

And through this technology, which befuddles Carlin right from the start, he is able to look in on the dead woman whose car was used in setting off the blast. Her name is Claire (Paula Patton, a truly beautiful newcomer), and Carlin tries to use every advantage of this newfound technology to prevent her death from happening. If that can happen, then possibly the ferry explosion can be prevented as well.

Déjà Vu is the latest offering from Tony Scott, who has taken a break from the visual kinetic filmmaking he expressed with his last two films, Man on Fire and the vastly underrated Domino. This film, by comparison, is a more conventional thriller filmed in a more straightforward manner. The result is a time altering thriller that basically is the opposite of Minority Report, if not exactly as brilliant.

Again, if you’re looking for any kind of realism in this movie, tough luck. This is strictly a pure popcorn escapist fare, courtesy of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, that also happens to be both intelligent and intensely thrilling. Scott adds in nice twists on a traditional action scene, especially in a car chase sequence where the hero is wearing a head set device that can show what happened four days ago in the same location, so the tech wizards can help him out as he goes along.

I almost had a problem with the final moment in the film. It ends with a resolution that is very different than what has been done in any other time travel movie. But then I glanced at it a second time, thought very hard about it, and eventually accepted it. I’m glad I did this because I was extremely lost at first.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention that the villain in the movie is played by Jim Caviezel. If he was looking for a role that was the complete opposite of Jesus, he succeeded all too brilliantly because his character is one nasty man! For one thing, I was happy to see Caviezel play an entirely different role because it illustrates his range perfectly.

It may not be the best time travel movie ever, but Déjà Vu is spectacular escapist entertainment at best. Under the sharp visualization of director Tony Scott, and with another strong lead performance from Denzel Washington, the movie is a must see for those seeking a good thrill ride.

Video ****

Tony Scott’s movies usually mean a visual treat on DVD, and this anamorphic presentation from Touchstone is exactly that. From beginning to end, the picture is stunning and crisp, with some knockout color schemes to boot. Not a single image flaw is present, as we are treated to nothing less than a strong and brightly effective picture.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix is amazingly effective in the action and music department, as is expected in a Jerry Bruckheimer/Tony Scott collaboration. Dialogue delivery is strong in clear, although in one scene I detected one slight flaw, as a dialogue exchange seemed as it was recorded low, though I’m not sure if that was the DVD’s fault or it wasn’t looped like it should’ve been. At any rate, the overall presentation is top notch!

Features ***

Offered on the disc is a nifty feature titled “The Surveillance Window”, which can be viewed either separately or even as you watch the movie. It offers an extensive look at individual sequences, as well as additional info surrounding the movie, such as the issue of filming in New Orleans and the sequences involving the car chase and the ferry explosion. Also featured are Deleted and Extended Scenes as well as bonus previews for additional Buena Vista titles.

Summary:

Déjà Vu is one entertaining ride, and it illustrates in super movie terms that it is way more than just a trick of the mind. Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott, in their third collaboration, prove with this film that the third time is indeed the charm!

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