Do you ever wish you could have prevented something from happened? Like telling the truth instead of lying? Or how about saving a ferry full of innocent people? ATF agent Doug Carlin is given such a chance in Tony Scott’s new movie, Déjà Vu. The movie itself is packed, and seems to never let up for the entire two-hour running time. The DVD, however? Sadly, not as packed. So how does the movie synopsis go?
Everyone has experienced the unsettling mystery of déjà vu – that flash of memory when you meet someone new you feel you’ve known all your life or recognize a place even though you’ve never been there before. But what if the feelings were actually warnings sent from the past or clues to the future? In the captivating new action-thriller from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott, written by Terry Rossio & Bill Marsilii, it is déjà vu that unexpectedly guides ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) through an investigation into a shattering crime. Called in to recover evidence after a bomb sets off a cataclysmic explosion on a New Orleans Ferry, Carlin is about to discover that what most people believe is only in their heads is actually something far more powerful – and will lead him on a mind-bending race to save hundreds of innocent people.
As you can see, the above synopsis really doesn’t provide a lot of information on the movie. No doubt, they’re trying to hold off on some of the film’s surprises, so I’ll try to not give too much away about the film’s actual plot.
It opens up like your typical crime show, and then it slowly deviates from that path, taking more of a sci-fi route. While the sci-fi twist seems plausible, at least within the realms of the movie, it does seem initially out of place at first. We follow ATF as he begins what he thought would be a routine crime scene investigation. He’s soon taken asked by a new branch of the FBI to help them find the culprits responsible for killing thousands. It’s here where he’s introduced to some rather amazing scientific equipment. Via a machine that bends time and space, ATF Agent Doug Carlin is given the opportunity to view three days in the past to discover who’s responsible for the bombing of a New Orleans Ferry. However, Doug finds out that things aren’t exactly as they seem when he discovers there may be more to this time-travel thing than meets the eye.
What director Tony Scott does the best is actually place some human interest in the center of this sometimes unwieldy storyline. You do have to bite your tongue and suspend your disbelief a few times, but he’s able to make you look past all the scientific hullabaloo and look at what’s driving the story, which is namely Carlin, skillfully played by Denzel Washington. Through him, we’re introduced to the sci-fi premise of the movie and make it seem actually plausible. Yes, the time-travel stuff could cause you to crack your head against the wall, but Washington is able to sell it. His need to solve this crime, and save a woman he has unexpectedly fallen in love with, makes us swallow all of this.
Of course, the science logic behind the movie also helps create one of the more interesting parts of the movie, basically a virtual car chase. The car chase takes place in two different time periods and is handled superbly, giving us a new take on the classic car chase formula.
I would like to add that Tony Scott handled the explosion of the New Orleans Ferry, which opens the movie, with surprising sensitivity. Sure, it may be a bit manipulative and a teeny bit graphic in some spots, but it’s handled with care. And since this was the first movie to film after Katrina ravaged New Orleans, making repeated references to it both visually and in the script, Scott handles the sensitivity of the entire situation with delicacy. By handling some possibly controversial material with care, and given us a human interest story we can be invested in, Scott makes Déjà Vu. work. Yes, the science behind the movie is baffling and (in the end) would never work. But it’s fantasy, right? Should we bother getting caught up in all the impossibilities, or enjoy a style and fun movie?
With solid performances across the board and solid special effects, Déjà Vu is worth at least a rental. The movie has a very easy re-watchability to it. I’m not sure what it is, perhaps the solid acting, the breathless action scenes, or just the “there is no way this should work, but it does” plot, it can definitely hold up to repeat watchings (though the science behind the movie may eventually get to you).
So, how’s the DVD? First up, the audio and visuals are solid. The transfer isn’t perfect, as sometimes some artifacting and interlacing appears, but it’s still a pretty solid transfer. The audio is great as well, though surprisingly subdued at times. We do get the usual car chases and blazing guns that come with a Tony Scott movie, but the soundtrack is not as over-the-top as you’d expect. And with Déjà Vu, especially the setting, it works.
But how are the extras here? Well, a letdown. The first extra, “The Surveillance Window,” clock in at under 40 minutes, with deleted scenes coming in under 10 minutes and extending lasting no more than six. “The Surveillance Window” feature is divided into ten smaller featurettes – “The Ferry Explosion;” “Developing the Character of Doug Carlin;” “Makeup, Wardrobe & Special Effects;” “The Surveillance Window;” “Cameras of Déjà Vu;” “Split Time Car Chase;” “Filming in New Orleans;” “First Team: Denzel, Tony & Jerry; Stunts: Compound;” “Stunts: Ferry” – and are provide a nice bit of information. Lasting four minutes, they manage to give basic look and talk about the subject at hand. They’re not fluffy, but they could be a tad bit meatier. They’re worth watching if you want to see how they pulled off some of the bigger effects in the movie. As with most extras of this nature, they can be watched individually or all at once.
Aside from a couple sneak peeks, the remaining extras are just deleted and extended scenes which really add nothing new to the movie. A few extra developments yes, but nothing essential to the film (not surprisingly). They add up to around 14 minutes of new scenes, so they’re worth a peek. Of course, there’s no trailer for the main feature anywhere on the disc.
And I have to add a comment about the packaging. While I don’t really care for cardboard slipcase, the slipcase for this release fits the movie perfectly. The reflective foil seems to fit right in with the highly stylish feature presentation.
Overall, I would definitely Recommend this movie. Déjà Vu is a stylish and fun movie with some actual heart. Sure, it’s not a classic by any means, but it’s a great way to spend an evening. And it even has rewatchability, a rarity these days. While you may get the sensation of “been there, done that,” with some action movies, this one manages to add just enough flavor and surprises to make it exciting. However, there’s that ending which . . . well . . . you’ll have to see it . . .
“Déjà Vu” arrives on DVD April 24th, 2007.