DeJa Vu

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


        Remember well the opening scenes of “Déjà vu” because they will become pieces of the puzzle you are trying to fit together. The scene, carefully staged in the crowded New Orleans harbor at Mardi Gras time after Katrina, goes on for a long time in film minutes – about ten – and that means trouble. As each minute passes while we watch navy sailors, families, all kinds of sweet faces enjoying the festival, the air grows heavy with foreboding. In a movie, any group this happy is doomed. And so it is. The ferry goes up in a terrorist fireball with pieces of people and the boat settling in the water and on shore for the police to pick through. A terrorist explosion in a devastated New Orleans is an extremely bad idea, but we have to put that aside and watch this simply as an action thriller. But it’s still a bad idea.

        For our great good movie fortune, one of the investigators is Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington), a forensics expert from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. If your interest ever flags, and it might as this cerebral puzzle becomes complicated, you are likely to be perfectly happy watching this kind and decent man sift through the clues. When asked, “What are you looking for?,” he replies “Anything that doesn’t belong.” There will be plenty that doesn’t belong.

        The number of dead – 543 – is mild by the Katrina destruction that still engulfs the city, but as all good stories must, this one zeroes in on one dead body – Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton), a beautiful woman who agent Doug realizes was dead before the explosion. How did this happen? For the answer, we meet a panel of extremely appealing futurist nerds. They are guarding closely the secrets of a computer program they have developed to allow them to fold space back on itself, a feat that allows them to see four days into the past – just once and briefly.

        The mentally dextrous nerds are dealing here with space worm holes, brain waves, time travel and new branches of time. You may think you’ll be bored, but Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott make absolutely sure you aren’t. Wrapped in a ton of illogical, impossible stuff is some compelling matter about the future, and it’s compelling because we have heard enough out here in the real world to know these kinds of discoveries are coming.

        Our hero manages to go four days into the past to try to change history, and while he’s at it, he falls in love with the victim, Claire. Moving at a hair raising clip that makes big, sometimes too big, demands on our brains, the movie is one continuous challenge to the audience. Denzel Washington and Paula Patton are appealing and smart, the nerds at the lab are endearingly pure and inventive, and the suspense grows with each complicated minute. That puzzle is yours to solve. Try it.


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