Question: If the great Denzel Washington (Inside Man) stars in a bad movie, is the movie still bad? Answer: YES. If, like my mother, you believe that any time Denzel graces the screen it’s a cause for celebration, by all means – walk don’t run to your nearest theater to check out Déjà vu. However, if you need more than a handsome face to make your movie-going experience worthwhile, I’d think twice about it.
Déjà vu reunites director Tony Scott (Man on Fire) with Washington and super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Con Air, The Rock). If these two are on board we at least know that a whole lot of shit is going to blow up. And it does. Washington plays ATF agent Doug Carlin, who is assigned to investigate an explosion that kills hundreds on a Naval Ship in New Orleans, during Mardi Gras. Simultaneously, he must solve the murder of Clare Kuchever (Paula Patton of Idlewild), whose death is linked to the explosion. To borrow a line from the script, if he can find Clare’s killer, he can find the person responsible for the blast. After this initial puzzle is established, we are introduced to the main concept which drives the film. The government has stumbled upon technology that allows it to not only record the past, but to manipulate it as well. As a matter of fact, they are able to send objects and people into the past in order to change the future (present). Agent Carlin is now looking at Clare’s last few days in order to uncover her killer’s identity and foil the terrorist plot.
This premise is acceptable, perhaps even intriguing, but its execution is flawed. I’m talking major plot holes and piss-poor writing. Have you ever been unable to comprehend something, not because it was so “deep” or “over your head,” but because it was just plain dumb? That’s Déjà vu! I don’t go to the movies to pick them apart, but I’m not an idiot either. Some of the things that happen in Déjà vu make absolutely no sense; it’s like the writers expect the audience to accept certain truths about this time travel technology although they directly conflict with other elements of the technology that have been presented. The implausibility level is 9 out of 10 in Déjà vu. Can the mere presence of Denzel Washington overcome these glaring flaws? Well, that depends on the viewer. Denzel will always be Denzel, but Déjà vu’s problems are bigger than him. In addition to the poor writing, the cast is wasted as the actors are relegated to one-dimensional beings that only serve to advance the plot. Jim Caviezel (Frequency, Passion of the Christ) is featured as the villain and prime suspect, while Val Kilmer (Heat, The Doors) is a federal agent assigned to the case. Neither one of these actors will be remembered for Déjà vu. If you want to see a movie that deals with concepts of time travel, fate, destiny, or government surveillance in a manner that is genuine and thought-provoking, I would suggest any one of the following: Frequency, The Butterfly Effect, Minority Report, or Donnie Darko. Despite a provocative premise, Déjà vu is ultimately disappointing, although Mr. Washington makes a valiant effort. He can’t do it alone though, and even if you put a diamond on a turd, it’s still a turd, feel me?