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D?j? Vu, teeters on the edge of clich

by Laura Sweeney on Dec 02, 2006



Déjà Vu, teeters on the edge of cliché.

First of all, I must admit that when I saw the trailers for Déjà vu, I rolled my eyes and crossed it off my list, but Casino Royale was sold out over Thanksgiving weekend, so I figured Denzel was reason enough to give it a shot. Within the first five minutes of the movie, my concern grew. Set in New Orleans, a boat filled with Navy families, adorable little kids with dolls included, explodes into oblivion before our very eyes. Three questions flashed through my mind: 1. Does Jerry Bruckheimer have to kill little kids in movies to get our attention? 2. Exactly how much did they offer Denzel to get him to do this? 3. And when your first scene is that big, where can you go from there?

Most artsy critics would tear this movie to shreds. And although this film didn’t change my life, I believe that for it’s detective thriller genre, it was certainly entertaining enough to hold my interest for two hours. The story line focused in instinctual ATF officer Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) and his investigation of the murder of Claire Kuchever, a beautiful woman whose body is found after the bombing. Mysteriously enough her time of death is determined to be an hour before the explosion and traces of duct tape are found around her mouth. Carlin comes to the conclusion that if they solve her murder, they solve the cause of the explosion.

Then, of course, the FBI gets involved. FBI Agent Pryzwarra, (Val Kilmer), invites Carlin to use their new high tech toy named, for no apparent reason, “Snow White.” It’s a satellite surveillance tool which replays footage from anywhere, but here’s the catch: it has a four day delay and you can only watch any given thing once, no rewinding, no fast forwarding, a sort of limited Tivo version of google earth. The FBI looks to Carlin who decides to follow Claire’s life leading up to the day of the explosion. Mostly because he’s positive her murder has a strong connection to the crime, it doesn’t hurt, of course, that she’s gorgeous and spends plenty of time alone in her underwear. And thus begins this high tech Rear Window into the past. As the clock moves closer to the day of the explosion, married to the job Carlin becomes more and more attached to Claire. As he and his team embark on a mission to uncover evidence, they can’t help but meddle with the events of the past.

Déjà vu is reminiscent of Minority Report and Matrix Reloaded but what sets it apart as well as makes it harder to achieve is its attempt to set a fantasy plot in a realistic setting. But what Tony Scott does deliver on is suspense and action. There is a fantastic chase scene in which Carlin must use special goggles to extend Snow White’s range. This scene more than any other scene in the movie uses the time element conceit to amp up what would have otherwise been a typical chase scene. And then there’s the heartbreaking love story between a detective and his victim, who he meets four days too late. All of this is rendered more believable by the high caliber actors.

Bill Marsilii and Terry Rosio’s script, though flawed, does a nice job of keeping us in the reality of the movie. Everything that is set up is satisfyingly wrapped up by the end. Denzel Washington is as good as ever making up for plot jumps as the detached ATF officer. Also, while I knew Jim Cavaziel was going to be in this movie he was unrecognizable as Carroll Oerstadt, the psychotic patriot gone bad. It was a nice change to see Val Kilmer play a stock detective part as Agent Pryzwarra. (Excuse me though,why did they name him agent Pryzwarra?) Paula Patton maintains a grounded connection to reality as Claire Kuchever. Also, a consistent performance turned in by Adam Goldberg (Denny) and some really nice reaction moments from Erika Alexander as emotional FBI agent Shanti. Unfortunately, Elden Henson (Gunners) is forgettable as the run of the mill techie guy.But overall the movie holds up. If you get some popcorn and a soda and you’re in the mood for a thriller, you won’t be disappointed. Déjà Vu teeters on the edge of cliché but luckily does not fall in. The very last moment of the movie Carlin and Claire find themselves in a car together and the same song comes on the radio as in a previous scene, and we’re waiting  for Denzel to say “it” and thinking “oh crap, it’s going to be cheesy when he does,” and it’s going to ruin the whole movie and thank god, he bites his tongue. Déjà Vu, lucky for us, still holds some surprises.

Laura Sweeney



  March 20, 2019

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