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Movie Review: Deja Vu

Deja Vu
Directed by Tony Scott
Written by Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio

Yes, director Tony Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer team up for the sixth time, the first since 1998’s Enemy of the State.  Scott also reteams with Denzel Washington for the third time.

Time travel, I’ve always thought, has been portrayed in films all too simply.  I’ve thought a great deal about the subject since one of my favorite films of all time, Back to the Future, and especially the mindbending plot difficulties of its first sequel.  Then I read Ray Bradbury’s The Sound of Thunder, and it gave me even more perspective as to how time travel, if it ever existed would raise complications nearly infinite in number.  Real investigation of the quandary probably would lead to massive failure at the box office, which means keeping it simple is a good thing, just not necessarily for logic’s sake.

Yeah, Deja Vu does things that are a bit The Matrix, a tad Frequency, a pinch Back to the Future, and so on and so forth.  In the end, a person with full hindsight is plunged into a world where he may change things for the better.  But ultimately, the world this person changes is only the immediate circumstances around him; it’s not the full-blown effect time travel would have on the entire world.

I was immediately skeptical of the new trailers for Deja Vu, after the teaser seemed to be going in the supernatural direction.  We find out later, it’s actually a new government project that is full-on ”big brother” and a kind of Minority Report combined, whereby using massive amounts of energy, they can extract “video” of the past, with a time limit and other constraints.  The ATF agent, Doug Carlin (Washington), is the first outsider let in on this project after a post-Katrina New Orleans ferry carrying swarms of Navy soldiers and their families explodes. 

The body of Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) is among the dead, but she clearly didn’t die from the explosion.  Carlin figures that by solving her mystery, the terrorist act can be solved, leading him to work with the supersecret unit led by Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) and his three nerdy (but hip!) underlings (Adam Goldberg, Elden Henson, Erika Alexander), Carlin is led to believe it’s some advanced heat-signature spy software, but he’s wise, and soon he’s using the technology to find the man behind it all (Frequency’s Jim Caviezel), maybe even stop him before he does it.

With it, comes the argument about fate, but in the end, this is a pretty nifty thriller.  By the very means of keeping it simple, the story makes sense and is satisfying even though the changes still aren’t drastic enough.  With cool technical gadgets, it’s amazing how rapt I found myself merely watching video screens for a good, long portion of the movie. 

When it turns to action and Carlin going after the bad guy, there’s a scene in a hummer I’m almost certain has nothing in film history in which to compare it.  It’s hard to find originality these days, and for at least this scene, Deja Vu has it.  Add to that your usual commanding presence and performance from Denzel Washington and fresh blood in beauty Paula Patton, not to mention nice turns from the nerdy team, who are entertaining even though they don’t have much to do but spout technobabble and such, this convention in film usually is pretty weak; not here.

This is all-around fun; a bit exhausting at times, but pure entertainment.  It’s a simple pleasure, and it’s good to have those.

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