Déjà Vu (2006)

Déjà Vu left me very confused. For not one second did I think that the science involved could be possible, but I think it broke its own rules in the process of breaking previous time traveling conventions. By the time it ended, I didn’t care much any more, and hoped that I could use the device featured in the film to stop me from getting past the first hour, because that’s when the fun stops.

We begin by watching a ferry, and by extension, the people on the ferry. We go around, we see a child lose her doll in the water, and basically just observe life. Then the ship blows up, and all these people die. 543 people are sent to the bottom of the river, if I remember correctly. Enter ATF Special Agent Douglas Carlin (Denzel Washington), who is sent to investigate this explosion. Why him? Well, he’s very good at figuring out what should and shouldn’t be at a crime scene. Oh, and he’s also played by Denzel Washington. That helps too.

The end up discovering a body of a woman named Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton). She has burns on 30% of her body, and her fingers appear to have been severed by shrapnel. There’s a problem though: Her body was uncovered before the explosion occurred, and was found in a place going against the current. If that’s not suspicious, nothing is. We then decide to focus on her and her assumed murder, with the presumption being that if her killer’s found, then so will the person who triggered the explosion. If I was on the case, I’d assume it wasn’t just a one-person job, but that thought doesn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind.

We then enter a facility that contains a mystical technology dubbed “Snow White,” which allows our characters to observe events that happened in the past using satellite surveillance. Apparently, satellites actually take 360 degree photos, and are able to capture all sound effects as well. The catch is that you can only view things that happened four and a half days ago, and you can’t rewind your footage. What’s the reasoning behind that? Apparently it would require too much hard drive space to do that.

We follow Claire around and watch her live her life for a while. After some time, we find out, just as Douglas does, that this machine can also send things back in time, although we’re told it can’t be anything large or alive, nor will it actually be able to alter the past. If you think you know where the plot is going from here, you’re probably right.

It’s at this point when I stopped caring. Déjà Vu sets itself up as a mystery film where we get to solve the case of the blown-up ferry, but instead, we end up with a man-on-a-mission story that isn’t all that interesting because we’ve seen it all before. If the technology had just done what we initially thought it could, it would have been more interesting, because that’s a unique technology. Bringing time travel into it just gets messy and less interesting the more it’s used.

While we open with an explosion, we don’t get much action until the final third of the movie, which has many explosions — most of which are implausible — and a couple of high-speed driving sequences. If a car is hit while you’re backing up, does it automatically explode? Having never been in an accident, I wouldn’t know, but at least three of them do in this movie, and I had a hard time believing that. It also didn’t add anything to the plot, and since it came near the end, I wager director Tony Scott found out he was under-budget, and wanted to blow some more things up.

Déjà Vu loses steam way before it ends. Like I said, once the time travel gets involved, I almost completely lost interest. The first hour is an intense mystery movie, while the second is an action movie about a guy wanting to save a girl. He doesn’t seem to care much about those 543 people who die in the explosion though. When the movie ends, which it does on a very silly note, I had been ready for the finale for at least 30 minutes.

When Déjà Vu works well, it’s because we’re not sure what’s going on, but we want to find out. When it fails, we’re confused but don’t care enough to think about how what’s going on is possible. There just aren’t enough interesting parts to balance out the poor, which left me feeling as if I wasted my time. Parts work, especially early on, but it didn’t keep my interest once it brought in time travel and degenerated into an action film.

Denzel Washington is a strong lead, and he gives a solid performance here. So does Paula Patton, someone who gets more screen time than I anticipated she would. Some of the things they’re forced to say and do are ridiculous, but coming from them, I could almost buy in. In the end though, I couldn’t. What they’re forced to do is just too silly to be believable, and even in a movie where time travel exists, I couldn’t wrap my head around the logic in this movie.

Déjà Vu is really good for its first hour, and pretty bad for the second, unless you still aren’t tired of action movies with the most basic of plots. The science doesn’t make a lot of sense, the ending is frustrating, and the mystery ends up taking a back seat to a man trying to change the past, despite being told multiple times that he cannot. There are good moments, but they’re pushed aside for the bad and outright ridiculous.

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