Touchstone Pictures // 2006 // 126 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // May 17th, 2007
What if you could change the past?
Déjà vu marks the third such collaboration between star Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott (the previous two have been Crimson Tide and Man on Fire). It's also at least Washington's second film that features New Orleans in a prominent role. In exploring time, space and the worm and rabbit holes that we have in the world, is this film any good, or is it the next sequel to Back to the Future?
In this story by Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Bill Marsilii, Washington plays Doug Carlin, an ATF agent sent to discover the cause of a bomb detonation on a New Orleans ferry. Over the course of his investigation, he finds that a murder of an attractive woman named Claire (Paula Patton, Hitch) might be tied into the ferry disaster, and he looks for the hows and the whys of the connection. He encounters FBI agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer, The Doors), who respects Doug's attention to detail. He invites Doug into a special detail that the government is running, one that involves a scientist with catchphrases (Adam Goldberg, Saving Private Ryan) who tells Doug that the government has a tap into the past, and maybe with Doug's help, they can stop the fanatical right-winger Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel, The Passion of the Christ) from causing the ferry disaster.
To the credit of the filmmakers and anyone else involved in the production and storytelling of the film, I've got to say I was more than a little bit impressed to see how the events transpired during the film. Denzel was more than willing to take the leap that the story forces and he gives the role the believability that it deserves. I really was on the edge of my seat for most of the film. The other major cast members in the film are also rather convincing too, as Kilmer is good in the role as an aging paunchy fed, Goldberg provides the humor in the film, although the lines he's given are a little bit too goofy and are a poor excuse for a youth infusion.
With all the good that goes on in the film, the thing that makes it not as enjoyable for me was the winding moments in it. You can see what's coming because of the things that Denzel's character spearheads, and yet when they happen it's still a little bit disheartening. Déjà vu is an action film, there's no two ways around it. But it manages to meander a little bit into the science fiction realm a little bit, and not to create a false expectation because it's not all about space suits and laser rays. The viewing of the history is almost where one can view any bit of information that they wish as a bit of a voyeur. And there's a device that allows portable viewing of this history as well. It is taken with quite a bit of a serious tone so as to laugh at how much it looks like a really cool "laser protection helmet" that a child would wear. But it's that last 20 minutes that still bite at me because again, for all the feelings surrounding the condition of déjà vu, the film settles into conventional big studio wisdom at the end for its main characters. It is truly a case of an interesting concept with a resolution that is hardly unoriginal.
The 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer looks pristine as far as Blu-ray transfers go, and I think it's probably the best one that I've seen in my short-lived bowing to the Blu laser. The image is consistently full of detail and depth, and considering that Scott's filming style seems to be one of cutting shots every few seconds, to see the film look as sharp as it does is a wonder. The PCM soundtrack is no less substantial, as the subwoofer pulses the score which is almost constant. The soundtrack's clarity and immersion are outstanding, and even when played on a lower volume setting through my receiver, it was still powerful. If it were a wholly entertaining feature I would certainly nominate it as reference material, but as it stands I liked what I saw and heard.
The extras also come from the standard definition version, the big thing being a feature called "Surveillance Window." This is the Touchstone equivalent to the Warner "In Movie Experience" on HD DVD. It provides some behind the scenes looks at some of the larger scale stunts in the film, serving as a picture-in-picture function over the course of the film. As an added bonus, Scott, Marsilii and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Black Hawk Down) pitch in with some audio commentary during the quiet video spots. On top of all this, there are five deleted and three extended scenes, all of which include optional commentary by Scott. Most of them are pretty dull and understandable for their excisions or trimmings, and wrapping up the disc is a "Movie Showcase," which shows off several key scenes where the audio and video shine in the film.
In the urge to keep the science fairly matter of fact without giving it a grandiose platform for the other characters to fawn over, there are a few scenes that provide some unintentional humor during heightened suspense. In between that and a third act that borders on silliness, those were the two things that prevented a good movie from being great.
Déjà Vu has its fair share of twists and turns, up and downs. The performances are capable, the story is interesting though not entirely convincing, but the real star appears to be the technical qualities that this disc possesses. It's worth checking out if you haven't seen it yet, and some may wind up adding it to their next-generation reference library.
Scott and Washington are acquitted for their work in the film, though Marsilii and Rossio are sentenced to community service for trying to tie everything together in the final act, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* "The Surveillance Window" Featurette Gallery
* Deleted and Extend Scenes
* Standard DVD Review
* Official Site