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Deja Vu
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2006

Format: Movie
By:   Tony Scott (Director)
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   November 22, 2006
Review Date:   December 12, 2006
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

Okay people, dazzle me! – Denny

I'm really starting to get a phobia about movies involving time manipulation and travel. The only decent one in recent memory is Primer. Aside from that, this particular sub-genre has not, shall we say, been endowed with quality. Timeline blew chunks. The Time Machine remake was pretty darn pathetic. A Sound of Thunder hurt me in ways that only Uwe Boll could top. And, of course, all the incarnations of Star Trek have flogged the concept into guava paste.

The only reasons I looked forward to seeing Deja Vu were: 1) it stared Denzel "Virtuosity" Washington and 2) the ads made it seem like there might be a new twist on the idea. Sadly, I only got half of what I was hoping for. What I did get was some good performances, some explosions, and a movie that's not quite as clever as it thinks it is.

November is a really strange time of year to release a sci-fi action film. Normally, these popcorn flicks that use sci-fi ideas to bring you the latest in pyrotechnic wizardry come out in the broiling summer, like The Island or The Sixth Day. That's the time of year when we care less about plot and more about things going BOOM. The winter months are when we get our thoughtful, meaningful genre flicks.

So how does a standard sci-fi potboiler like Déjà Vu get released now? Probably because of having Washington and Val "Willow" Kilmer in staring roles, having ever so brief "deep" discussions. In a summer popcorn flick, they would be the down-time plot exposition between explosions. If they were longer and better written, they would be the thoughtful examinations from the type of movie that Déjà Vu thinks it is.

The plot of Déjà Vu starts out simply enough, showing us the bombing of a fully-loaded ferry in New Orleans, resulting in a massive death toll. Enter ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel), an observant out of the box thinker who is one of hundreds of agents looking into what happened. The body of Claire Kuchever turns up, but it seems she died before the ferry exploded. This leads Carlin to believe that the bomber killed her earlier and tried to hide her in with the other victims. This means if he can solve her murder, he can find the bomber.

This reasoning leads him into contact with FBI agent Andrew Pryzwarra (Kilmer). He leads a special task force that uses some fancy hardware to perform remote surveillance. This equipment can rotate around, zoom in on and pan over areas incredibly fast. Pryzwarra (say that three times fast) invites Carlin to join his team, which includes tech-guy Denny (Adam "Stay Alive" Goldburg) and some other geeks. As the equipment starts showing things that no camera, no matter how high-tech, should be able to see, Carlin begins to suspect that this setup is more than he has been led to think it is.

Sure enough, through the miracle of fold-space quantum sci-fi hand-waving, the team find a way to look back four and a half days in time. However, time marches forward, so they can't rewind and watch things again, or fast forward. To find the bomber, the team starts watching Claire's life, looking for clues. And of course, Carlin falls for her and becomes obsessed with finding a way to use the tech to change the past.

From here, the movie is a mix of a lot of things we've seen before. The "it can't be done/we have to try" fights. The cops searching for the elusive yet mad bomber. Great acting from Denzel and Val. The revealing of how things we see early in the movie were done in the past to be the way they are when Carlin finds them. The only thing that is new in the entire movie is when Carlin uses a remote unit to "follow" the bomber as he drives on the highways of New Orleans. It's a car chase where the lead car is four days in the past, and Carlin has to duck cars that are driving the roads now, while trying to keep the bad guy in view. Aside from that, there really isn't that much here that we haven't seen before, and done better. This is a shame, because with the cast Déjà Vu has, it should have been a much better movie than it is.

Déjà Vu could have been a great, thoughtful sci-fi flick, or it could have been a great fast-paced popcorn action flick. Instead, it tries to be both and becomes a muddle of things we've seen over and over again. Déjà Vu indeed.

RevStaff Writer Gary Mitchel recently discovered a surveillance technology similar to the one in the movie. He calls it “Gary’s Magic Time Machine for Watching Girls Who Got Naked Four-and-a-Half Days Ago Get Naked Right This Minute.” Most of the rest of the world just calls it TiVo.

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