“What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world, but you knew they’d never believe you?” (Doug Carlin)
In 2006, the now late Tony Scott directed a time-travel thriller “Déjà-vu”, starring Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer, presenting a story of A.T.F. agent Doug Carlin who starts to investigate the bombing of a ferry in New Orleans, but ends up embarking on a romantic time-travel mission to save the lives of many. Coming from a film director known for “True Romance” (1993) and “Enemy of the State” (1998), “Déjà-vu” plays all its cards right, and, despite perhaps failing to convince the audience of the plot’s technological advances, the movie still feels very “complete”, fun to watch and provides just the right amount of suspense to keep one intrigued until the very end.
There is a lot to admire in “Déjà-vu”, and the fact that so many film critics dismiss the movie is a bit unfair. The movie captures the audience’s full attention from the very beginning when it unfolds the event of a ferry bombing, and the director presents the suspenseful atmosphere of the imminent danger with great skill. For example, there are beautiful slow-moving shots of happy people on the ferry before the disaster. Overall, the film is well-presented and has many thrills, just like any action movie should be/must have. Surely, it is no masterpiece to be hanged on the wall and be admired, but it is a very nice entertainment, and that is what matters. One thing which is particularly nice about “Déjà-vu”and what makes it stand out from other action movies is its villain. Here, it is the terrorist responsible for the bombing of the ferry, Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel). It feels like he should really be feared: he is cold-blooded and mysterious ,and Caviezel makes him very determined and believable.
The biggest criticism of this film is the science behind the “time-travel” technology employed in the movie. In the movie, a team of investigators use a special program “Snow White” to see into the past (four days prior to the bombing) to identify and eventually stop the bomber. Through this technology, Doug Carlin (Washington) spies on a woman who he thinks is the key to solving the case. Sure, the science is ridiculous as the team uses a number of satellites and the system does not allow to rewind, etc., but knowing that it is only a movie made for one’s entertainment, surely all this could be forgiven. On the contrary, the time-travel premise makes the movie somewhat thought-provoking because there are “free-will/destiny” discussions. In fact, Doug (Washington) plants clues in the past to help him move further with his puzzle when he “returns”, all making “Back to the Future” (1985) a bit less exciting in comparison.
Denzel Washington always performs this role of “an authoritative official under-stress” with brilliance, and Robert Zemeckis’s “Flight” (2012) is the main example of it. In “Déjà-vu”, Washington is also very good. He is stoic, romantic; a trustworthy hero. His chemistry with his beautiful co-star Paula Patton (Claire Kuchever) is electrifying, and he also plays off well against Val Kilmer (“Top Gun” (1986)) and Matt Craven (“Crimson Tide” (1995)).
Despite its “technical” flaws, “Déjà-vu” is a very entertaining, emotionally-charged film, which will definitely provide for a great-night in. It is both romantic and action-driven with a thought-provoking ending and a convincing performance by Denzel Washington. What more could be asked for from one’s entertainment? 7/10