RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Films produced by Hollywood kingpin Jerry Bruckheimer usually don't have French titles, but Déjà Vu breaks a lot of rules.
Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.
KENNETH TURAN: Déjà vu was in the business of confounding expectations. It's not the routine potboiler starring Denzel Washington, the advertising indicates. Instead, it's a thriller that plays like the noir classic “Laura” would, if science fiction writer Philip K. Dick had a hand in the screenplay.
(Soundbite of movie, “Déjà vu”)
Mr. DENZEL WASHINGTON (Actor): (as Doug Carlin): Don't answer it. I'll prove it to you. That's your friend Beth calling. Let the machine pick it up. She's gonna say, hi, Claire. It's Beth, are you there? I'm sorry to call you so early but when you didn't call me last night, I got worried.
Ms. DONNA W. SCOTT (Actress): (as Beth) Claire? Hi, it's Beth. Are you there? I'm sorry to call you so early but you said you were gonna call me when you got home and when you didn't I started to get worried.
Ms. PAULA PATTON (Actress) (as Claire): Beth, is this a joke?
TURAN: Déjà vu translates as already seen. It's a film viewers will be hard pressed to explain to themselves, let alone anyone else. But if the script doesn't make any sense, it does so in such a delirious and energetic way that it's' hard not to go along for the ride.
The key notion here has been a sci-fi staple for years. It's whether the past is truly past or whether past, present and future are in some way connected, via shortcuts through space in time called wormholes. These shortcuts enable people in the humble present to influence both the past and the future.
(Soundbite of movie, “Déjà vu”)
Unidentified Woman: (Actress): Basically you're forming space in a higher dimension to create an instantaneous synch between two distant points.
Mr. WASHINGTON (as Doug Carlin): Instantaneous?
Unidentified Woman: Well, that's what we hope for. That's what we expected. We used huge amounts of energy to create this (unintelligible).
Mr. WASHINGTON (as Doug Carlin): All right. How huge.
Unidentified Man (Actor): You remember that little blackout we had a few years back?
Mr. WASHINGTON (as Doug Carlin): Yes I do.
Unidentified Man: New York blamed Canada, Canada blamed Michigan…
Mr. WASHINGTON (as Doug Carlin): Right. Half the Northeast. You're saying you guys…
Unidentified Man: Fifty million homes.
Mr. WASHINGTON (as Doug Carlin): Right.
Unidentified Man: My bad.
TURAN: When you've got a far-flung premise like that you need a star who grounds the film in everyday reality. Denzel Washington playing a government agent investigating a terrorist blast does that beautifully. An actor with charisma and intelligence to burn, Washington is someone who never wastes his time, never takes on projects that don't deserve to be made.
Also essential when you're making a film with a plot nobody should be thinking about too hard, is a strong director who can move things along at a break-neck clip. A director like Tony Scott. Scott is expert at filling the screen with so much forward motion that the questions you might otherwise ask get left in the dust.
Though he's made his share of fiascos, Scott and Washington form an especially potent combination. Witness 1995's “Crimson Tide” and 2004's “Man on Fire.” What is interesting about “Déjà Vu” is not how little sense it makes but how little that matters. If you want your films to add up logically you're welcome to take your calculator somewhere else. But if you do, you'll be missing out on some first-class genre fun.
MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan is film critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.
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