Deja Vu
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Tony Scott
scr Bill Marsilii, Terry Rossio
with Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Jim Caviezel, Bruce Greenwood, Adam Goldberg, Elden Henson, Erika Alexander, Matt Craven, Enrique Castillo, Rich Hutchman, Elle Fanning
release US 22.Nov.06,
UK 15.Dec.06
06/US Touchstone 2h08

Somewhere in time: Patton and Washington

kilmer caviezel greenwood

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Deja Vu As usual, Tony Scott brings buckets of style to this action fantasy. The mind-bending story is enough to keep us interested, although the film is bloated and needlessly overcomplicated.

Doug Carlin (Washington) is an ATF agent investigating a horrific bombing on a New Orleans ferry. But one body in the river doesn't seem quite right, and soon he's working with a mysterious team of FBI agents (Kilmer, Greenwood, Goldberg, Henson and Alexander) using a surveillance gadget that looks back in time. So he starts following the dead woman (Patton) in the days leading up to the bomb blast. And he starts thinking he might be able to send a message back--to stop the bomber (Caviezel) and save her.

It's an intriguing idea, with echoes of Minority Report, and Scott certainly makes it entertaining. Images slither around the screen, echoing earlier shots to give the story a sense of rhythm and texture, even if it's actually rather corny and underdeveloped. The characters never amount to much more than the standard cliches--action hero, beautiful woman in distress, snarky sidekick, gruff-but-thoughtful boss, wise-cracking geek, brainy and ruthless villain.

It certainly never stretches the cast very much, although at least Washington and Caviezel fully commit to their characters. And it's enjoyable to piece together the puzzle of a plot, although there are long stretches that drag badly, plus long sequences that are completely irrelevant. With some judicious editing, this could have been a lean and bristling thriller. Alas, Scott wallows in his whizzy imagery, lingering far too long on prurient shots of Patton in various states of undress and making sure we see every angle of every big action set piece.

In other words, this is a big, dumb, pretentious movie with nothing at all beneath the surface. Nods to both terrorism and Hurricane Katrina are pure McGuffins, irrelevant screenwriting tools deployed to make us think the film is actually about something. Emotions pretend to run high, a whiff of romance lingers in the air and of course danger lurks around every corner. In other words, moviegoers willing to take the bait will love it.

cert 12 themes, violence 29.Nov.06

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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall