Saturday, December 2, 2006

Reel To Reel: Deja Vu

We've seen this before somewhere, but better.

How It Rates: **1/2
Starring: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Violence, Mild Language, Slight Female Nudity

Deja Vu's premise is not too far removed from Minority Report, which used technology to see crimes before they happened. But whereas the latter gave us much to ponder, the former doesn't want us to think too much. So, the most intriguing aspect of the film is ruined by sloppy execution.

You can't blame it on Denzel Washington. As always, he turns in a charismatic performance as an ATF agent assigned to investigate the terrorist bombing of a New Orleans ferry with hundreds of sailors and their families on board. One would think Washington would tire of these roles, but who cares as long as he plays them so well? Agent Doug Carlin doesn't need a lot of time to get what he needs from a crime scene, which makes him a quick recruit for a specialized investigative unit.

This team of sleuths possesses a killer tool: a massive, heavily guarded computer system nicknamed "Snow White" that constantly processes information from satellites and heat imaging cameras to show what was going on four days ago as it happened. Even in the movie universe it's hard to believe, although somebody will probably tell me the CIA or the NSA has such processing power at its fingertips. Sure enough, Carlin soon finds this technology involves more science than cameras.

Without revealing the plot point, I will simply say it is forced upon us in a way that made no sense to me. When Carlin argues with the members of the Snow White team about this point, it's almost like he's arguing with the writers of the screenplay to give him something that makes sense.

A couple of scenes stand out, including one where Washington's character chases a car he can see on the highways four days ago, making this the trippiest pursuit I've ever seen on film. But unfortunately, many of Washington's actions seem motivated only by a line in the screenplay and not his character. This film reteams him with director Tony Scott from Man On Fire, which also featured a theme of a lone crusader. Unfortunately, Scott can't seem to make the rest of the movie work around Washington, leaving him to go through the motions while we struggle to understand why.

No comments: