November 25, 2006

Movie Review: Deja Vu

When I saw the first trailer for Deja Vu I was less than impressed. It looked like as decent action thriller with the usual Tony Scott visual flair, but I didn't see the hook. Why should I care about this movie? I suspected I would get a little enjoyment out of it, living vicariously through the explosions, but it didn't really grab me. Then something changed, the second trailer came out, and I got a better idea of what deja vu had to do with the movie. This follow up introduced a science fiction element, an element that was sure to introduce its own set of headaches, but now the movie had its hook, and I swallowed it.

Now, that opening may suggest that I was initially uninterested in the movie. The reality is quite the opposite. I am intrigued by the combination of Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott, it seems to be a better match than Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, then add Denzel Washington to the mix and everything begins to look up. Deja Vu has that look of a Scott film that has developed over Domino and Man on Fire.

Deja Vu is a stylish exercise in plotting and execution at the expense of fully realized characters. It is a thriller that uses time travel as the device upon which it rests its plot. The end result is a film that is thrilling and deals intelligently with the theory of time travel. It is not without its flaws, and if you start thinking to hard about the connection between past, present, and future and how the characters interact with them in there attempts to change the world around them and you are sure to give yourself a killer migraine.

The plot kicks off in explosive fashion as a ferry boat explodes, launching flames into the air and resulting in the death of over 500 people. ATF agent Doug Carlin (Washington) is on the scene, examining the debris and looking for "what doesn't belong." He soon finds what he is looking for, a beautiful young woman who appears to be a victim of the ferry explosion, but was discovered before the explosion happened. Interesting.

Carlin is approached by Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) about joining a new task force, whose first case is the ferry incident. Shortly after that Carlin is thrown headlong into a world where technology exists allowing us to see what happened four and a half days in the past. A technology which can help them solve the mystery behind the ferry and the deceased young woman.

This is one of those movies that if I would run the risk of ruining if I try to describe too much of the plot. It is better to be experienced firsthand. The script is cleverly structured and unfolds at a more natural pace than you may expect from a typical Bruckheimer production. It has its share of highly explosive action, but there is a lot more to it than that. It is Bruckheimer/Scott through a Philip K. Dick filter.

The time travel portion of the film is a clever plot device that allows some gymnastics in the various reveals and action sequences. Among those action sequences in one of the most unique and engrossing car chases that I have seen in quite some time. It gives the writers license to play with the facts and switch things around when you least expect it. It is a device that works perfectly with the visual sensibilities of Scott and lets the script from Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio have a little fun with the subject.

At the heart of the film, besides the plot device upon which it all hangs, is Denzel Washington, an actor who displays an onscreen charisma and intelligence that fits right in with everything that is going on. His character is one who has confidence and is not afraid to speak up when it doesn't make any sense, yet easily adapts to the changes and knows how to use the new developments to his advantage.

I enjoyed how the time travel experts try to explain how the technology works and the potential complications of changing the past and creating an alternate reality. It is an attempt to explain something that may be unexplainable in cinematic turns, and despite the seeming shot to the foot it takes, remains a compelling device that makes the thriller work.

Bottomline. Tony Scott creates another compelling piece of pop cinema. It gives the appearance of brains, delivers the adrenaline filled goods and leaves you happy, slightly confused, but definitely entertained. Just try not to add up all the pieces for too long, just take the visceral joy and leave it at that.

Highly Recommended.


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