Tuesday, June 28, 2011
(November 2006, U.S.)
DEJA VU is a film that I should have never likely seen. The reason for that is because after I saw MAN ON FIRE (2004) with all of it's super-speedy, headache-causing, jump cuts and edits, I swore to myself that I was through with Tony Scott's films forever! I actually remember leaving the movie theater quite angry, unable to believe that the director of TOP GUN (1986) and CRIMSON TIDE (1995) had sunk so low to this over-the-top camera and computer gimmickry. However, two years later when I heard about DEJA VU, a crime thriller that incorporated elements of high concept science fiction, I decided to be fair and give it a look. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I not only loved the story, but that Scott also decided to tone down the previously-mentioned style of film making considerably. Lucky me.
The horrific crime that begins this film (like it or not) takes its inspiration from two of the greatest tragedies to take place on American soil in the last twenty years - the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 and the events of September 11, 2001. In the film, the city of New Orleans is still in the midst of recovery from Hurricane Katrina when a bomb explodes on a ferry, killing hundreds of men, women and children. Special Agent Doug Carlin (played by Tony Scott film veteran Denzel Washington) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) is sent to investigate the explosion and discovers evidence that the attack was committed by a domestic terrorist. On arrival at the scene he hears his ring tone and discovers that the ringing is coming from a nearby body bag at the crime scene. He then learns about a charred body pulled from the river, that of a girl named Claire Kuchever (played by Paula Patton). However, unlike the other bodies found in the river, this one was discovered to have been killed BEFORE the explosion (following so far?). Doug joins a newly formed government-funded detective unit whose first case is to investigate the explosion by using a new program which enables them to look into the past in detail. The system is limited in that they can only see past events once; there is no fast forwarding or rewinding, although they can record what they see (still with me?). Convinced that Claire is a vital link to the case, Doug persuades the team to focus on her and they'll get their man. While investigating Claire's past, the bomber calls her to try and purchase her car to use to blow up the ferry. Although he decides not to purchase her car, during the phone call the team will discover an exact time and place where they know the terrorist will be (I TOLD you this was high concept!). Through a discovered time window, Doug will transport himself back in time by about four days and not only save Claire's life, but also prevent the bombing from ever happening.
Now do you want to know what gives me such a kick about time travel films besides my general enjoyment of the concept itself? It's that no matter how fucking impossible the notion is, there are always scientists and scholars in the film that have explanations and theories that actually SOUND like they could make valid sense. If you listen to Adam Goldberg's character ramble on and on and on about how and why everything about their sci-fi program does what it does...well, I can't honestly say you're going to understand one word of it, but damn if it doesn't SOUND like it works! But then again, I suppose that's why it's all called science FICTION.
I still feel completely alienated from Tony Scott's films today and it's probably going to stay that way, but I can consider DEJA VU a serendipitous dent in the program.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Doug Carlin: "All right! Am I askin' a hard question!? All right, I'll tell you what, I'll speak slow so those of you with PHDs in the room can understand. Here...here, look, here's a monitor, right?"
(picks up a chair and smashes the monitor)
"Now the monitor is broken! It's dead! It has not temporarily transitioned to another state of entropy! It's dead! Right? Now, is she alive or is she DEAD??"