A return to the techno thriller genre for director Tony Scott ("Enemy of the State", "Crimson Tide") after the the powerful "Man on Fire" and the deeply surreal and bizarre ride of "Domino", "Deja Vu" stars Denzel Washington (also star of Scott's "Tide" and "Fire") as ATF agent Doug Carlin. Early in the film, a ferry carrying hundreds of military officers is blown up in a chilling scene.
Called in to investigate the horrific act of terrorism is Carlin, who believes that a victim who has washed up (Paula Patton) is somehow closely linked to the explosion, despite the fact that her body washed up before the attack happened. After doing some investigation of his own, he is called to join a new team headed by FBI agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer).
The team has developed a new limited time machine that allows them to look back a little over 4 days into the past, but without any sort of stop/fast forward/rewind control over their view, although they can change the angle and hear audio. They only have one chance to spot clues as they go by on the screen.
They use the system to track the mysterious victim, named Claire (Patton), who Carlin believes will lead them to the one behind the ferry attack, which turns out to be former marine reject Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel). As he uses her past to try and solve the case, Carlin becomes fascinated by the beautiful woman and tries to both save her and see if he can figure out how to stop the attack.
Aside from some very intense moments, much of "Deja Vu" stands as one of the calmer films that Tony Scott has ever directed or that Jerry Bruckheimer ("Armageddon") has produced. Visually, cinematographer Paul Cameron does a fine job capturing the New Orleans locations and it's interesting to see a film from Scott that is more straightforward in terms of visuals, with less rapid-fire editing and less dizzying (see "Domino", "Man on Fire" or Scott's flying around a rooftop conversation in "Spy Game") camerawork.
A fair amount of the first half involves Washington, Kilmer and other members of the team (including Adam Goldberg) looking at a screen in the office and trying to pick up clues. The film does offer a lot of discussion and philosophy about time and fate, but while those aspects may grab the initial interest, it's really best not to think about them too much, as the film's logic isn't exactly flawless. Thanks to Washington's enjoyable performance (certainly not one of the actor's best, but good), the slower moments of the film still keep the interest.
The film's action sequences are tense and well-constructed, including a chase scene where Carlin has to drive a Hummer equipped with a rig version (a few scenes prior, the audience is told that the device takes an enormous amount of energy to power, but then we see a portable one - hmmm...) of the time device, looking through one eyepiece at the past and trying to look at oncoming traffic with the other eye.
"Deja Vu" certainly isn't without some pretty big plot holes and the picture does run a little long at a bit over two hours, but if one can jump over the plot holes, "Deja Vu" manages to be an engaging drama/thriller with a bit of sci-fi blended in.
Note: The film's rating is PG-13, but the film seemed closer to an "R" to me.
VIDEO: "Deja Vu" is presented by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture appeared almost always crisp and well-defined, with good detail and clarity. The presentation did run into some infrequent issues, though, as some slight edge enhancement and artifacting was seen in a few spots. Otherwise, the film looked clean, with no print flaws or wear. Colors looked somewhat subdued, but richer colors occasionally showed and were presented in bold, vivid fashion. Flesh tones looked natural and accurate throughout.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was entertaining, although not as aggressive as most of Scott's films, due to the somewhat more dialogue-driven nature of the feature. Surrounds do kick in during some of the more intense sequences, such as the Hummer chase, offering various sound effects and reinforcement of the score. The surrounds also offered some minor/mild ambience during other outdoor sequences, as well. Audio quality was very good, with punchy sound effects, a rich score and crisp, clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: "Surveillance Window" is advertised on the box as a series of featurettes and, while it is that, it is also a commentary from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott and writer Bill Marsilii. However, at certain points of the commentary, the movie stops and we get featurettes about the making of a scene in the film before heading back to the film. The commentary offers a lot of good information about shooting in New Orleans, the story (although writer Marsilii sometimes narrates the story that we've just seen a bit much), production issues and the construction of many of the scenes. The featurettes expand nicely upon some of the topics discussed in the commentary, as well as other technical and production aspects not mentioned. Overall, it's a solid feature that offers a lot.
Otherwise, we get 5 deleted scenes, 3 extended scenes and the trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Deja Vu" certainly isn't without some pretty big plot holes and the picture does run a little long at a bit over two hours, but if one can jump over the plot holes, "Deja Vu" manages to be an engaging drama/thriller with a bit of sci-fi blended in. The DVD edition provides very good audio/video quality, along with some solid extras. A recommended rental.