Deja Vu (2006) / Thriller-Sci Fi

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, terror, disturbing images, and some sensuality
Running Time: 128 min.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel, Adam Goldberg, Elden Henson, Erika Alexander, Bruce Greenwood, Elle Fanning (cameo)
Director: Tony Scott
Screenplay: Bill Marsilii, Terry Rossio
Review published November 25, 2006

Movies that deal with time travel are often a bit of a headache, as they frequently feature paradoxes that threaten to add more implausibility factor to the breaking point.  However, sometimes films that feature such inconsistencies can still succeed as entertainment, despite making very little logical sense in terms of adhering to a set of tangible rules, whether real or concocted.  Deja Vu is the latest film to employ tampering with the past in order to secure a different outcome in the present, but by the time you realize that it is highly illogical as a film, you've already gained enough enjoyment out of the film from a thriller standpoint to forgive the shaky foundations in science fiction.

Denzel Washington (Inside Man, The Manchurian Candidate) collaborates for the third time with Tony Scott, after Crimson Tide and Man on Fire, and with Deja Vu, their track record is now three for three.  Washington stars as a New Orleans-born ATF agent named Doug Carlin, who has been commissioned to assist in an investigation regarding a terrorist bombing of a river ferry that kills hundreds of Naval officers and civilians.  During the course of his duties, Carlin comes across the body of Claire Kuchever (Patton, Idlewild), who shows signs of having been killed two hours before the bombing occurred.   With evidence nearly impossible to obtain from the charred remains of the ferry, Carlin knows that his best bet is to uncover the secret to the murder of Kuchever, which he believes will lead him to the culprit.  This is when Carlin's investigative world gets rocked by a startling introduction to a device, dubbed "Snow White", that allows someone to see and hear the activities of any spot on Earth exactly four days and six hours in the past.  He doesn't know how it works, but it doesn't matter, as he becomes obsessed with using the device to try to uncover evidence to make sure those responsible for the reprehensible acts are put away for good.

Deja Vu lives up to its name a bit by being somewhat derivative of other recent science fiction thrillers, but it never cribs from any of them enough to merit labeling it as an out-and-out rip-off of any of them (there is a subtle 12 Monkeys vibe to the plot, even if the events are vastly different).  Although the time-shifting elements within the film would be a bit more plausible had the film been set in the future, if you accept the fact that such a contraption could theoretically exist (although incredibly unlikely to be utilized exclusively by law enforcement), you'll probably be able to suspend disbelief the rest of the way, regardless of how ridiculous it might seem in hindsight.  It takes a great deal of trickery to make such a farfetched premise fly, so credit director Tony Scott (Spy Game, Enemy of the State) for keeping the action and drama moving at a brisk enough pace to keep out minds engaged more in the events as they unfold on the screen, only realizing that, in the end, it doesn't quite hold up to close analysis.  Given the level of intrigue, mystery, and excitement generated, it's all forgiven in the name of sheer entertainment.

Although clocking in at a sizable 128 minutes, it does go by fast, with enough twists, turns, action, romantic leanings, drama, and revelations to engage us from one scene to the next with a minimum of lag time.  It also features another car chase sequence to go down among the most original ever conceived.  Sure, there are plenty of loose ends and logic loopholes to have to contend with, but with fine performances, a nifty plot, and solid production values all around, Deja Vu overcomes familiar story elements to deliver a lively and interesting thriller for those who enjoy mysteries mixed with fantasy and science fiction elements.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo