Déjà Vu: Surreal Action Film Kicks Temporal Mechanics!

Deja Vu - Carlin Watches HimselfDeja Vu's publicity campaighn has hammered home that it is a time travel movie, but the actual time travel portion of the film is limited to the third act – and what a third act it is! With a cast that includes Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer and Jim Caviezel, Deja Vu does have a lot of star power – but unlike a lot of star showcases, this one includes stars who are fine actors, and the script really puts them through their paces.

Washington is ATF [Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms & Explosives] Agent Doug Carlin, who is but one of a task force investigating a terrorist bomb that destroys a ferry with a full complement of over 500 passengers. When he picks up on the discovery of the corpse of a young female who was, apparently a victim – and the call-in on the discovery of the body turns out to be half-an-hour before the bomb – he immediately suspects that the murder and the bomb are related.

He's drafted to a special, under-the-radar unit headed by Val Kilmer's FBI Agent Pryzwarra, which has some impressive technology at their disposal – they claim it's an ultra-advanced form of satellite surveillance that is always four-and-a-half days into the past because it takes that long for their supercomputer to render it accurately [he suspects it's something else, because when they surveil the woman, she seems to sense she's being watched].

Deja Vu - Carlin watches Carol

Deja Vu is intricately structured, and the way the film plays with temporal mechanics is consistent and logical throughout. Carlin's fascination with the soon-to-be-murdered woman on his monitor is built beautifully – Washington needn't say a word for us to know what he's thinking. During these scenes, Paula Patton makes it extremely easy for us to see why a cynical ATF agent might fall for her…

As the title suggests, there is a lot of material that comes back in on itself. Particularly impressive is the way the dialogue recurs from different characters' mouths – in different situations. Very smart stuff, indeed. As a science fiction fan, I was impressed that screenwriters Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio [Mark of Zorro, Pirates of the Caribbean] never let the science get out of hand, or become inconsistent [it's also cool that, like a lot of breakthroughs, this technology is the result of a fluke!]. As an action fan, I note that the action set pieces are extremely well done – to the point of providing the first truly unique car chase in decades!

The way Carlin finally deals with the terrorist is inspired – and well within the "deja vu" structure that has been careful built over the course of the film. Even the ending, with its moment of sacrifice and ensuing moments of hope, is a unique take on the Hollywood happy ending that is, ultimately, satisfying. Try as I might, I can't really find any major flaws in the film – and the little ones aren't really enough to make a difference to the overall experience. This is be Tony Scott's best film – and I suspect that D

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