As with most films involving time travel, rules and guidelines have to be developed early on. As long as the film stays within those boundaries the audience will remain oriented. Oftentimes such films break their own definitions of time travel somewhere along the course, and by the end of it the audience is completely bewildered. While Deja Vu certainly has its faults when subjected to the ever frequent over-analyzation of critics, it manages to hold your interest, conjure up scenes of astonishing action, and acceptably resolve, for the most part, intact.
ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is called in to investigate a terrorist bombing of a New Orleans ferry. He is recruited by Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) to view satellite footage of a murder victim, Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) who is mysteriously linked to the terrorist attack. As he watches footage from four days prior to the explosion, he uncovers a mind-blowing way to interfere with events in the past, and possibly save hundreds of lives, including Claire’s.
Too often highly entertaining films are scrutinized for plot continuity and loopholes after the film is finished being viewed, which dissuades audiences from simply enjoying the movie for what it is. This largely unnecessary tradition hurts the general consensus on numerous films, especially those involving highly controversial topics such as time travel. While watching Deja Vu I was enthralled, intrigued and anxious to find out what happened next; which is all that I had hoped for based on the previews. Having defined its rules of time travel towards the middle of the film, it remains careful not to cross those boundaries. Regrettably, you must completely eradicate any pre-existing notions you have about the subject, or you’ll find yourself questioning the events onscreen. Back to the Future, Terminator and 12 Monkeys are but a few of the more notable time travel films that create their own theories and endeavor to abide by them; while watching any subsequent time travel film, assuming anything can be ultimately confusing.
Perhaps the most compelling attribute of Deja Vu is its presentation of defining the space time continuum. As Tony Scott mentioned in a recent interview, he wanted the film to be interpreted as “science-fact” as opposed to science-fiction, in that the explanations are so close to what has been scientifically experimented with, that it’s not so preposterously far-fetched. But adhering to Denzel’s reaction upon hearing the explanation, I imagine audiences will assume that it’s all just scientific jargon. Films like Back to the Future show that time is a single line that can be manipulated along a point, thereby changing future events. Deja Vu, however, follows the theory that there are several timelines all in coexistence, and that they never intersect. While one scientist attempts to explain this to Carlin, she draws a picture of a single line that branches off into several possible futures. The irony is that her theory directly conflicts with what actually happens in the film. Deja Vu is marketed through its trailers and TV spots as an action thriller, and somehow the subject of time-travel is left out, which will undoubtedly catch some viewers off guard. When a film introduces its setting in a futuristic display, it’s easier for audiences to accept the fictitious world and the fantastical events that take place. But when a film such as this introduces itself in a present day setting and then abruptly throws a formidable science-fiction element into the scheme, audiences may have an arduous time suspending their disbelief.
Denzel once again is entertaining to watch, as is the somewhat flamboyant Val Kilmer. In an ironic turn, Jim Caviezel plays the antagonist, a terrorist bomber, which is an extreme opposite to Caviezel’s previous character from The Passion of the Christ (which of course was Christ). And newcomer Paula Patton also delivers a commendable performance, adding some tangibility to the outlandish plot. Exceptional action scenes add considerable excitement to the film, and a unique chase scene involving a Hummer driving the wrong way down a highway while Doug watches both the present and the past is unequalled in awe-inspiring moments.
Remember to observe as much as you can early on, because it inevitably plays a role toward the end of the film. And also remember to keep things simple, and avoid overanalyzing the undeniable loopholes that become apparent after discussing it with your friends. If you do that, the fierce action, affecting drama, and interweaving story will keep you strapped to your seat all the way to the triumphant conclusion. If you do that, the fierce action, affecting drama, and interweaving story will keep you strapped to your seat all the way to the triumphant conclusion.
8 out of 10