(PG-13) Three stars
If you want to enjoy Déjà Vu, you’ll need to dial your brain to the “Latter-day Santa” setting. You know what I mean. Remember when you reached the age where the whole Santa Claus thing didn’t make sense anymore, but you weren’t quite ready to give up the joy of believing, so you decided to put your questions and concerns on the shelf and just accept that Santa was plausible. That’s the mindset you need for this movie.
The third collaboration between Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, Man on Fire) is a time travel thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans. The story is about ATF agent Doug Carlin (Washington), who, while investigating the explosion of a tourist-packed ferry, gets to use a new top secret investigative tool: a machine that can look four days into the past. Within the geographical area it is set for, the machine can see pretty much anywhere.
In short order, Carlin finds himself with a lady to save (Paula Patton) and someone to chase (Jim Caviezel). Needless to say, he tests the limits of the machine and, after everyone tells him that it can only be used to observe, finds a way to travel back in time to try to rescue the woman and stop the explosion. The story is goofy and riddled with gaps in its internal logic, but I told you that already. Luckily, Washington and Scott are so effective that it’s easy to just roll with the story.
While not as good as Crimson Tide or Man on Fire, the movie has some treats. For one thing, the ferry boat explosion is a doozy. Second, there is a chase scene on a crowded highway with Carlin driving the wrong direction at a high speed while wearing a time traveler helmet, allowing us to see the oncoming cars both in the present and, through his eyepiece, four days earlier. I realize that sounds terribly confusing, but boy, is it exciting to watch. Finally, we have the setting. Scott shows present-day New Orleans as it is — the parts that have been gussied up and the parts still in desperate need of attention. He doesn’t make a big to-do about it, which is why the images are so effective.
Thanks to the authority of Denzel Washington and the jazzy direction of Tony Scott, Déjà Vu pays off enough to warrant a recommendation. Just remember to properly set your brain for the experience.