Déjà vu isn’t so much a whodunit as it is a howdunnit. At the center of this New Orleans murder mystery is a government computer program that allows scientists to recreate the past, traveling back in time four days and six hours. This journey into the heart psychics is fleeting, however. The g-men brainiacs can recreate a perfect image of the past, complete with different camera angles and perfect sound, but because of the great amount of energy needed to generate the image they can’t rewind or pause. This ghostly likeness of the past plays in real time and then, like real life, is gone forever.
How do they do it? Good question. The movie takes pains to explain the science in a long protracted scene and they shouldn’t have bothered. It’s all mumbo jumbo that slows the picture’s momentum to a crawl, but fortunately, that’s the only time the police procedural aspects of the movie take second place to the scientific claptrap. The rest of the film is straight out action and suspense. It a metaphysical story with the onus on the physical.
Denzel Washington is an ATF investigator whose analysis of an alleged terrorist bombing of a New Orleans ferry carrying hundreds of U.S. sailors leads him not to an Al-Qaeda cell but to a homegrown terror plot and a beautiful girl who may have been an unwitting victim. So far it’s like a really elaborate episode of CSI, (which like the movie is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer), but the wrinkle comes in the form of a wrinkle in time. The above-mentioned time machine bends not only time but also the movie, transforming it from a standard run-of-the-mill police drama into a metaphysical thrill ride.
Director Tony Scott, brother of Ridley and maker of such frenetically edited films as Domino and (and two others with Denzel including Man on Fire and Crimson Tide) infuses every frame of the film with beautifully composed shots and intricately choreographed action sequences. Time travel has never looked this good. In one spectacular scene Denzel engages in a car chase set in two time zones simultaneously. It’s exciting and unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The science in Déjà vu doesn’t add up and, frankly, the movie doesn’t have much to do with déjà vu, but Scott and Washington are a reliable team and deliver enough wham-bam action and eye candy to earn a recommendation.