I’ll make the obligatory joke early: It seems that I’ve reviewed this before somewhere… (Now I have a machine-gun.)
Ho. Ho. Ho.
Denzel seems to appeal to everyone, Mums & Dads gain some sort of comfort from watching him, women fantasise about the handsome black man factor and he also is in enough action flicks that guys of most ages will watch his stuff.
His films never seem to show up in anyone’s Top 10 or best of list though, and he has never been lucky enough (or stooped low enough) to be in a fluffy summer blockbuster, something that Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt couldn’t claim.
Despite this I think Déjà vu was only millimetres away from changing all that, the only thing that ruined it for him was a confusing plot device that many critics couldn’t seem to look past.
Déjà vu is taut, well acted and cracks along for the entire 2 hour duration, and once you’ve finished it the first time there is definite merit in watching it again once the pieces all fall into place for you.
Denzel isn’t a supercop, just a regular cop named Doug from the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) section, which may or way not involve checking kids for fake IDs, I’m not sure.
The opening scene gives him reason for involvement by showing the explosion of a big New Orleans Ferry carrying hundreds, perhaps thousands of oblivious passengers, many of them members of the US navy. A car bomb stored in the parking area goes Ka-Boom, and reports put the death toll at 500+.
Denzel is called in to check for signs of criminal activity among the debris, and he immediately discovers some suspicious evidence that he passes onto an FBI agent called in to assist, played by Val Kilmer. (I can’t remember his character’s name, this is Denzel’s movie. Move on.)
Security footage scrutinized in the following hours and days shows a shady character on the bridge just prior to the explosion, and the situation is labeled an act of terrorism.
(It is worth mentioning at this time that many other seemingly minor things go on aside from what is described above, most of them have a pay-off later in the film but seem inconsequential at this point. You need to see the film to understand why.)
Among the many bodies in the morgue is that of a young black woman identified as Claire, only her badly burned and charred body showed up before the actual blast, leading Doug to believe that she was killed and left there as a cover up, and that finding her killer might lead to the cause of the ferry explosion.
His initial visit to the victim’s home causes even more confusion, “U Can Save Her” is written on the fridge with plastic kid’s magnets, there are bloody swabs and bandages in the bathroom, and when he checks the answering machine he hears his own voice from a message he left the previous day. He decides to concentrate his investigation on solving the Claire murder, and being the team player he is he passes his theory and information onto the FBI.
This is where things get messy, and infinitely more interesting.
The FBI conscripts Doug into their team investigating the incident, and in doing so provide him with a lot more access and information. Most notably is the availability of a Whiz Bang satellite system that allows the FBI to view events as they happen from any angle they decide: only the camera actually sees events as they occur 4 days and 6 hours previous to “now”, due to a loophole in some scientific thingo.
This seems to be a major sticking point with many people as such a thing obviously does not and (probably) will never exist. The genius of having such a fake reason explaining how they trace the events and ultimately the perpetrator, is that the filmmakers can dictate the abilities and limits of the system to justify plot events and further the story at various times, leading to some suspenseful and exciting scenes later on.
Seriously, it is a plot device, don’t understand it, just accept it and move on, or turn off and miss a really good second half. We can’t fly to Mars yet either, but every year a movie comes out saying we can and no-one blinks an eye, should we penalize someone for making a sci-fi film that is set on Earth and not 3,000,000,000 miles above it?
Speaking of limitations, the camera system can only view what the operator is telling it to exactly 4 days and 6 hours previously, there is no rewind and recording can only take place of the current view, it can be directed all over the New Orleans area, can see through walls and can pick up audio of the events onscreen. Doug’s job is to tell it where to look so that they might find the guy who caused the incident and track how he did it up until “Boom goes the dynamite”.
And they only have three days to go.
For some reason Doug comes up with ideas and theories that the FBI guys who invented the system don’t think of right off the top of his head, and needless to say they find their man.
Doug starts musing on the abilities of the system and starts wondering if it might prove more than an “Information only” device.
I can’t expand further without confusing myself so I won’t. I really enjoyed the first ¾ of this film and had already jotted the grade down as a very solid 7.5, but the movie comes home strong, and the final 20 minutes earned it another .5 for sheer audacity in what the filmmakers attempted to pull off.
Déjà Vu features a solid believable performance from Denzel despite the leaps of logic that are required, but if you can move past these and watch the movie as a movie, and not a thesis about the merits and capabilities of time travel, you will see that all the events that seemed extraneous in the first half now make perfect sense.
In one 6 or 7 minute scene the entire film comes together for the viewer and for Doug’s character, and I actually got chills when the pieces all fell into place for me.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. Very underrated. Decide for yourself if the events “could really happen”, but watch this in any case.