Denzel Washington reteams with uber-action auteur Tony Scott and mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer in the stylish techno-thriller, Déjà Vu.
The temporal and spatial movements are key in this sci-fi excursion that delves into the title's paradoxical characteristics of the way we're struck by a person or a place that is totally new, somehow having been experienced in our lives.
The production was delayed by Hurricane Katrina and eventually relocated to a politically-charged New Orleans (the film is dedicated to all concerned with the disaster and its continuing relief effort).
Washington (Inside Man, Man on Fire) is ATF agent Doug Carlin (whose last name isn't easily remembered by some characters in the film) out on the case of a cataclysmic explosion on a New Orleans Ferry. This shocking early sequence leads to something more mobius-strip in quality as Carlin looks to find evidence from the horrific event.
His investigation, which has him dangerously underneath a bridge support, leads to much skepticism, as energy, deception, and a cool surveillance of a superconductor are a part of the somewhat intriguing, if mystifying script devised by Terry Rossio and Bill Marsilli.
The movie's trailer could be misleading, but not in the case of the alluring Paula Patton whose Claire Kuchever is an enigmatic link to the catastrophe and Carlin. Inside this actioner is a deepening love story traveling backwards. Oddly, through the bending technology, an obsession develops making one recall Rear Window as apparently after Claire's death, Doug has the chance to watch her "live."
During the (time-travel) voyeurism which leads to some complicated state-of-the-art car chases that might thrill fans of The French Connection in "split-level" or in one scene, Carlin going against traffic, Scott makes the Crescent City shine.
Surveillance is given new high-tech, digital meaning in the secret "Snow White" Time Lab with feeling for the manipulation behind all of the ways criminal activity are reconstructed. The viewer might feel somewhat locked in this setting for too long as the scientists (of varying cultures) emphasize how it is a work in progress. The most disturbing finding from this process involves the character of Carroll Oerstadt, acted by a resolute Jim Caviezel, no stranger to this kind of tale (remember Frequency), who has much to say about sacrifice and patriotism.
The sophistication of the imagery, from the military techniques, using impulse and thermal, as well as infrared goes well beyond Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State injecting more sci-fi realism. How the time-shifting narrative and love story coalesce can be suspenseful and bizarre at the same time allows Washington to share favorable interplay with a bulky Val Kilmer and a photogenic, potential leading lady like Patton. Does it matter if the final scenes really wrap our consciousness in a clever or unconvincing way that lingers in the mind of the intuitive, if not well-mannered Doug. That's déjà vu all over again.