April 20, 2007
Director Tony Scott and Denzel Washington team up for another noisy, hyperactive action film for producer Jerry Bruckheimer but this time out they try to add a bit more substance and thought between the car chases and explosions with Déjà Vu (2006).
When a New Orleans ferry filled with U.S. servicemen and their families blows up due to act of terrorism, ATF agent Doug Carlin (Washington) is brought in to investigate. This allows Scott to lay it on good and thick that scores of people were unfairly and horrifically killed via gratuitous slow motion shots of the wreckage and of Carlin walking amongst numerous body bags. Through intuitive detective work, he figures out that the source of the explosion was in fact a bomb. A surveillance tape on a nearby bridge shows a mysterious figure (Caviezel) watching just before the explosion.
Soon, the body of a good looking young woman named Claire (Patton) washes ashore, another victim of the explosion except that it appears she was possibly held captive and died several hours before the ferry disaster. A visit to her home yields additional, tantalizing clues including a phone message by Carlin on her machine even though he has no recollection of ever meeting her. He is subsequently approached by an FBI agent (Kilmer) who asks him to participate in a brand new program utilizing state-of-the-art technology that takes satellite footage and scans a specific location from every conceivable angle providing additional clues if one knows where to look and this is where Carlin comes in. The only catch with this technology is that he can only view it once and watch the footage in real time.
This is where Deja Vu starts to get interesting as Carlin figures out that what they are dealing with is a window into the past where everyone is still alive and the ferry didn’t blow up. So, he proposes sending himself a note warning about what will happen. The film wades into the fascinating waters of time travel and theoretical physics albeit packaged as a Jerry Bruckheimer/Tony Scott high octane action flick. In some respects, all of this hi-tech experimental surveillance equipment makes Deja Vu feel like a sci-fi sequel of sorts to another Scott film, Enemy of the State (1998).
The film is also set in New Orleans and doesn’t shy away from showing Hurricane Katrina-ravished sections of the city which raises ethical questions, like a big-time Hollywood production exploiting a horrible, real-life tragedy for entertainment. Or, should the filmmakers be commended for pumping some economic revenue back into the beleaguered city when it really needs it?
During the exposition scenes Scott shows surprising restraint (for him). You certainly have to hand it to Bruckheimer and co. for presenting a unique take on the time travel action film complete with a car chase that occurs simultaneously in the past and in the present. Then, just when the Deja Vu should end good and proper, it proceeds to lose its mind and take everything to the next level of complete implausibility (as if what came before wasn’t hard enough to swallow) while resorting to predictable action film clichés after working so hard to subvert them. The filmmakers manage to undo everything that made their film so intriguing in the first place as they greedily try to have their cake and eat it too.
All of the featurettes can be viewed while watching the movie or on their own.
“The Ferry Explosion” gives brief insight into how they pulled off this sizable stunt in these eco-conscious times. This was a carefully planned and staged stunt utilizing 16 cameras!
“Developing the Character of Doug Carlin” briefly examines Washington’s character with comments from the ATF advisor who coached the actor.
“Makeup, Wardrobe and Special Effects” takes a look at how they did the burns and wounds on Claire’s dead body.
“The Surveillance Window” examines how the time window device would be depicted in the movie. The filmmakers didn’t want it to be too sci-fi but grounded in science fact.
“Cameras of Déjà Vu” takes a look at the new camera effect that had not been used in a feature film before.
“Split Time Car Chase” explores the inventive car chase that takes place in the past and the present at the same time. The camera technology they employed for this sequence allowed for lesser edits.
“Filming in New Orleans” features Bruckheimer explaining how he pushed to shoot in the city that he felt was so rich in history. Katrina happened as they were set to film and so they had to wait for the city to regroup.
“First Team: Denzel, Tony and Jerry” takes a look at the reunion of all three men who had worked together previously on Crimson Tide (1995).
“Stunts: Compound” examines the stuntwork in the terrorist’s base of operations.
“Stunts: Ferry” explores the climatic action sequence that took place on the ferry including a gun battle and other stunts (one in which actor Jim Caviezel did which was potentially very dangerous).
Also included are five deleted scenes with optional commentary by Scott. He likes these scenes and in several cases they added local colour or featured nice moments between two characters but seemed ultimately unnecessary once they began assembling the final film.
Finally, there are three extended scenes with optional commentary by Scott. There is a more elaborate version that shows off a piece of technology that is featured prominently later on. Scott says that if he wanted a PG-13 rating, he had to tone down the pouring of gasoline over Claire in one scene which we now get to see.