Déjà Vu? No thank you.
Déjà vu? More like Déjà-don’t! In this quasi-thriller quasi time travel extravaganza Denzel Washington takes an unlikely trip back to the past to save the life of a woman with whom he has recently become obsessed, oh and then there are the 540 men, women, and children who were innocently killed too. The movie opens with the beginnings of a Mardi Gras celebration for navy officers and their families when a car bomb explodes the local ferry on which they were enjoying the day. Don’t worry, I'm not giving anything away. If you’ve ever seen an action movie, let alone a flick produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, you know this idyllic scene of innocent fun and joy cannot end well.
After the explosion, Doug Carlin (Washington), a federal agent from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Unit, comes to investigate the scene. The exploration brings him to the scorched body of a woman who was killed before the explosion ever occurred. His involvement eventually leads him to be asked to be a part of an elite team who, with special surveillance equipment are able to look back and retrace the days that led up to the explosion.
However, as the first act comes to a close, we learn that their equipment is much more than just simple satellite surveillance. When that realization was made, my suspension of disbelief couldn’t be suspended any longer. At first it took me a moment to accept the concept that our government’s newest satellites could penetrate walls and peer into our homes and watch our every move. Initially I was skeptical, but eventually I conceded because it’s beyond the government to watch and listen to our every move (cough, cough). Audiences accepted the cinematic surveillance that initially seemed unlikely with “Enemy of the State” a hit. So why not this too? However, when it was revealed that they were not in fact watching old satellite footage, rather a window into the past – a wrinkle in time if you will – I lost interest. That was just too much to accept. The script tries to hide the absurd concept with a lot of techno-jargon coming from the Ph.D. who invented the machine; however that just confused me more. From that point on, until the lights finally came on, it’s pretty clear how the movie is going to end. It became rather formulaic and predictable.
So obsessed with rescuing Claire (Paula Patton), the murdered woman, Carlin insists he travels back in time. Despite the warnings from the physicists and other detectives, he goes back four days to track down Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel), the man who committed the horrific crimes. The artist formerly known as Jesus now plays a gun toting, ideals spewing terrorist. For the greater good he was willing to take lives, including his own. He goes on tirades that denounce the state of American politics and patriotism. He berates Americans for not being as jingoistic as he thinks they should be. He is disappointed with the waning support of the war and the troops overseas.
This plotline was so hard to accept because in most time travel movies there is an element of fantasy. This was rooted too deeply in reality. Our world is a little too scary these days to intertwine such detailed political upset with fantasy. Something just felt off about the convergence of the two themes. Escapism is something that people want, but after seeing this movie I realized that it has to be done in the right way.
Aside from that, the other aspects of the movie do not have the strength to hold the plot together. The weak script combined with the average acting did not help matters. Carlin never met the woman previous to the narrative, nor had she met him, yet almost instantly they fall for each other. The kiss they share after knowing each other for one hour was laughable – and the rest of the audience made it clear that they felt similarly when they burst into laughter at the moment of the kiss. The lack of character development is astounding. It’s as if the writers spent too much time working on learning all the technical terminology that they forgot to actually develop their characters…woops.
The concept of government surveillance is an interesting topic to tackle, especially in a day when it is actually happening at levels unseen before this administration. Furthermore, with Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, and a number of other good actors there was a lot of promise going in to the making of this movie. It is a shame that a movie with such good intentions carried it out so poorly.