DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: DEJA VU

Tuesday 10 July 2007


Déjà Vu (2006) dir. Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Jim Cavesiel, Val Kilmer


“Déjà Vu” is a Jerry Bruckheimer/Tony Scott film which automatically means you know how it’s going to look, feel and sound. I used to be a big Tony Scott fan – in the 1990’s almost every film he made was a solid piece of Blockbuster entertainment. Arguably his 00’s output is subpar (sorry, I know there’s lot of “Man on Fire” fans out there), and sadly Déjà Vu is not ahead of the pack. It’s decent entertainment, but nowhere near “Crimson Tide”, “True Romance”, or “Enemy of the State” days.

A bomb explodes aboard a New Orleans ferry boat killing hundreds of civilians. ATF officer Doug Carlin (Denzel) is sent in to investigate. He’s detailed and dedicated, and lonely and unattached as a result. He is joined by the mysterious Agent Pryzwarra played by Val Kilmer, a federal investigator heading up a new highly specialized task force. Kilmer invites Denzel to participate in a form of surveillance – a form of time travel which allows the cops to look back exactly 4 days into the past (no more no less). The past is viewed like a camera which can show the past... umm like a movie… a Tony Scott movie… any camera angle is possible, but it can be at only one place at any one time. Denzel uses this device to follow steps of a woman who died from the accident. Denzel hopes this woman will lead them to the terrorist.

The more Denzel’s allowed to see the woman’s intimate daily routine the more he becomes involved with her case. He quickly falls in love with her. Eventually he goes back in time himself to actively capture the criminal and save the life of his new found love.

The entire film hangs itself on this new time travel device. Essentially it’s the same device as “Minority Report”, except reversed. But never before has such a ridiculously high concept device been thrown at us to accept without the slightest pause. It’s written in just as an excuse to excecute a few neat chase sequences and surveillance trappings. The time travel stuff isn’t as clever as say, “Back to he Future”, or “Primer”, or even something like “Memento.” Once the filmmakers think that the audience has accepted the plausibility of the concept it starts inventing its own rules to fit the action scenes they want to craft. For example, Denzel’s car chase which pits him against the evading terrorist whom he’s chasing from 4 days ago. Though I do have to say it is an excitingly done.

The film also wants to be a love story. Denzel Washington falling in love with a woman he only sees through a television screen is again more convenient storytelling. The lead actress is just a token body to fill the screen with yet another pretty face. Also, she’s 25 years Denzel’s junior. It’s a total mismatch.

But I have to say the final moments do bring the film full circle and is a clever time-travel moment and does put the film into perspective.

Midway through the film several characters just disappear from the film – never to be seen again – Val Kilmer and Bruce Greenwood – two great actors are treated like furniture and just moved out of the way and discarded when not needed.

Tony Scott’s slickness is present and for fans of his saturated gradient filtered long lenses and his wicked helicopter shots, then you will enjoy the film.

Buy it here: Deja Vu


Anonymous said...

when is denzel NOT going to play a detective?

Andrew D. Wells said...

actually, this fall in Tony's brother Ridley's film "American Gangster". Densel is the gangster this time to Russell Crowe's detective.

Andrew D. Wells said...

I just watched this film myself. I don't believe I was ever as taken by Tony Scott as Alan (I am a huge Ridley Scott fan however). I always felt Tony was more interested in flash than depth. I agree with the three films mentioned as three of his best, but I always attributed those to their sripts. QT penned True Romance and did a dialogue spritz on Crimson Tide.

I did like Deja Vu dispite it weaknesses. Certainly the script is quite nonchalant about the acceptance of its amazing time device. But in accepting it as easily as the screenplay did, I found myself able to enjoy the film until the end. I think the film would have been much stronger had it avoided the "happy ending." At one point I thought I had figured out why these people wanted to make this movie. I thought the screenwriter actually had the original idea to make a time travel movie where no matter what the characters did they were un able to alter the course of time. All time travel stories hinge upon the fact that if you go back in time you will vastly alter the outcome of events. What if that notion were totally wrong? Now that would have been a profound movie.

Anonymous said...

I liked it mostly because of Denzel Washington. I thought it handled the back in time scenario well. The chase scene days apart was very inventive. That Denzel Washington was many years older than the hot babe who is attracted to him only gives hope to my generation.