By Fred Topel | Images property of Touchstone Pictures.
It’s Rear Window with a modern techno twist. Déjà Vu does the classic surveillance thriller a solid by bending the space time continuum for our suspenseful amusement.
Movie Review: Deja Vu
After a horrific ferry boat explosion kills over 500 Navy sailors and their families, the FBI brings ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) into their top secret program to monitor the past in real time. Their technology uses satellites to record an area, and in four and a half days they can display it from every angle. As Carlin studies the events leading up to the attack, he discovers there’s a lot more to this window into history.
The beginning of the movie is a hardcore mystery. Carlin does his CSI thing with a UV light and smelling corpses. The mystery deepens as he finds more and more clues, and you just know they’re setting up time travel clues that will come back. Phone messages and mundane observations will pay off later.
When the past-camera comes into play (they call it “Snow White,” I’ll call is past-cam), Déjà Vu is a real techno-thriller. They could just make it a piece of technology and it would be a fascinating device to solve a mystery. It asks you to suspend a lot of disbelief, but it’s so cool it’s worth it. They even mention how much data the procedure requires, so they know it’s out there.
The film really milks every possible suspense out of this device, thinking of minute ways to affect the past and explore its consequences. The gang of agents and scientists use teamwork to find their clues and catch the bad guy. Technology malfunctions and they work through it, improvising. The car chase with the past has got to be one of the coolest pursuits in film history.
Denzel Washington is in charge. He’s likeable but authoritative, laughing along with his underlings and putting them at ease with minutiae like the coffee pot. When the sci-fi comes up, he deciphers all the techno babble for us and keeps it fun.
Tony Scott thankfully returns to a more straightforward filmmaking style .He’s still got slow motion and spinning cameras but that’s standard for action movies. At least we don’t have to sit through all that jittery multi-stock undercranked crap. There’s a little bit of static with the past-cam shots but there it makes sense and it’s only enough to create a mood.
There are several explosions but that’s not what’s thrilling about Déjà Vu. It’s the tracking of past events that pumps you up for the chase. The changes are subtle, not broad in a Butterfly Effect kind of way, but that’s cool. It increases the intense desire to make a difference, and the futility of inevitability.