STUDIO: Buena Vista
MSRP: $24.99
RUNNING TIME: 126 Minutes

  • The Surveillance Window
  • Deleted scenes

The Pitch

Enemy of the State + Man on Fire รท The Time Machine.

The Humans

Denzel Washington. Val Kilmer. Paula Patton. Jim Caviezel. Bruce Greenwood. Adam Goldberg. Elden Henson. Matt Craven. Director: Tony Scott.

"But the commercial said I’d be fighting dragons and climbing mountains with my bare hands!"

The Nutshell

Making movies is all about Deja Vu. Recalling those familiar things which allow audiences to feel at home. The high concept pitch. Character actors in similar situations. There’s a sense of Deja Vu when watching a film like Deja Vu because it’s a product that feels familiar, no small coincidence as it comes from master packager Jerry Bruckheimer and action director high chieftan Tony Scott. That it features reliable and familiar stalwarts like Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer only seals the deal. Deja Vu is an action sci-fi flick for people who really don’t want to be bothered with meaty notions and minutia and that’s alright. There is simply too much deep and mind-bendingly fresh literature out there for the average moviegoer to ingest it all. There’s also the Herculean task of sifting through the massive amounts of science fiction available on television to figure out which ones are worth the effort, which ones are vastly beneath their hype, and which ones are unfit to serve as Roger Corman flicks. There’s just too many options.

Deja Vu is science fiction for people who don’t have the time for all that nonsense.

8 out of 10 guys agree this is the preferred lipstick for a lady.

The Lowdown

Denzel Washington is Doug Carlin (don’t pronounce his last wrong, or else), an ATF agent who is brought to the scene of a massive ferry explosion in New Orleans. It’s a major mess with tons of bodies blown to smithereens and not enough clues to build a worthwhile investigation. Then a body is discovered away from the scene, a woman. She is the missing piece and almost imemdiately after digging into her life Carlin begins to feel a connection. First it’s the typical situation where the investigator gets underneath the skin of the victim to help solve a crime but it becomes something deeper. This is evident in shots of Denzel staring longingly at her image. The explosion is a biggie, delivered only as Tony Scott and a select few others can; through slow-motion and multiple angles. You will never want for shots of burning sailors hurtling through the air. It’s actually a nice scene, especially because although we know there’s probably a ton of digital work being done it’s handled so well that it just feels like a nice, good ol’ explosion. It’s a fantastic explosion, though it’s getting harder to see explosions like this and not be reminded of the countless real explosions happening these days with real casualties. Thankfully I’m not the politically conscious voice of this site.

The trail of the killer cold, Agent Carlin has only his deceased muse and the added weight of his partner’s death on the ferry to keep him company until he is contacted by a covert team led by Bruce Greenwood to participate in some experimental crime solving techniques. Carlin says yes, or Deja Vu would have been the most glossy and depressing short film ever.

"You are not paying for the services of Bruce Greenwood, actor, Mr. Bruckheimer. In your employ I am that and so much more. So much more. I’m a mentor. A friend. A shoulder to lean on in times of trouble. A licenced warlock. An animal handler. A perfect foil in a game of Taboo. A blacksmith. No one hammers hot steel like me. You aren’t hiring intense and slightly reptilian character actor Bruce Greenwood. You are hiring LEGION.

The covert team is a creation that could only exist in a Bruckheimer/Scott collaboration. A thing of beauty, really. Just as Enemy of the State (my Bruckheimer tri-pack review here) had its amazing group of Young Hollywood legends filling the roles, this one manages to put together the oddest assortment of talent together and pulls it off admirably. Greenwood, Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg, and The Mighty‘s Elden Henson; high-tech genius special ops unit. It’s that grouping that tells you that this film might not be a documentary.

Originally billed as some sort of weird Quicktime VR crime recreation team whichs uses old satellite recordings to build crime scenes, it becomes apparent that this team has a big secret. That secret is TIME TRAVEL! The game becomes increasingly afoot as Denzel uses his sharp mind to help the team find and follow the killer (Jim Caviezel, hot off the cross), and prevent the explosion from ever being cool and in slow-motion.

In what is a sweetly surprising change of pace, the story becomes less about the terrorost act than about a man’s obsession with a woman. As she haunted him in death, she completely owns him in life, and it’s easy to see why. Paula Patton is a solid actress and quite astonishing to look at; as Denzel’s peeping eyes reach into her life leading up to the accident he not only finds clues to her killer but also falls madly in love. It’s a nice switch for a film like this, because aside from the massive explosion at the outset, there’s not a lot of action shenanigans going on. When they do happen; like the really lame real-life/virtual reality car chase that ends up with far too many innocent casualties, more often than not they’re not as interesting as the quiet moments where the team watches and reacts to the past coming to life before them.

There are a few scenes in the middle of the film where I really started to like this movie. Denzel Washington is always compelling and I was surprised at how good the team of surveillance people were, especially Adam Goldberg. I’ve never been a big fan of the guy but he does terrific work with some really horrible lines of dialogue. How on Earth can anyone say "I need more cowbell!" in 2007 and it not reek of ass? Ask Adam Goldberg, apparently. Those middle moments where the life of a victim is visited and revisited through fragmented time are really strong and if handled well this film could have felt more like a modern day The Conversation rather than Time Travel Enemy of the State, but sadly it really pushes the logic aside once our hero hops into the machine to save the day. It’s both the only thing they could do and the only thing they shouldn’t do and were it not for really good actors making it worth watching, it could have been really bad. Regardless, highbrow science fiction fans won’t be lining up for this one, so they won’t be offended.

When it all boils down, Deja Vu is solid filmmaking and performances aloft a rickety script on a rather cool premise. It’s not as crackerjack as some Bruckheimer films are, and it sadly doesn’t have the vacant splendor of The Rock or Bad Boys 2 nor the surprising finesse of a Crimson Tide or Man on Fire. Still, it’s hardly a bad couple of hours and there’s something very satisfying of seeing Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg, Bruce Greenwood, and Elden Henson sharing a screen together. Very odd, but satisfying.

The first publicity still from Jesus Goes Batshit, coming this fall from Wank Her, Jay! Home Entertainment.

The Package

The Surveillance Window is a nice concept, allowing folks to get behind the scenes whenever the onscreen team is using their contraption to eavesdrop on the past. It’s glossy and not as in-depth as I’d like but it’s well executed. I’m a sucker for when the special features actually have a relation to the source material rather than when a DVD goes above and beyond to create… synergy. It’s a neat little feature and one day in the life I want to see a truly all-access look at the post-2005 world of super high octane filmmaking but this certainly wasn’t just EPK fluff.

There’s also a handful of extended and deleted scenes, all available with Tony Scott commentary, and though none fo them are standouts they’re nice to have available. Once again, it makes me long for more. My mind’s eye version of Tony Scott is a crazy and amazing guy, and every time he makes a movie I want a commentary track and if I really could dare to dream; one without anyone looking over his shoulder or editing it. I have a feeling he and his brother are stuff of Legend and I want more, not less of them.

Not a loaded disc, but a good-looking one with some decent features.

6.5 out of 10