Friday, December 01, 2006
MovieWatch: "Deja Vu"
Director: Tony Scott
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 59
In a Nutshell:[This review discusses the film's ending in nebulous terms, but it *does* discuss its ending. Be advised. Be very advised.]
After suffering through the last hour of "Domino," it's hard to make me feel sorry for Tony Scott, but after seeing "Deja Vu," I kinda do. You're Tony Scott and your orchestra an expensive, twisty, high concept thriller and you leave it with the studio and then you happen to catch the extended trailer and... DEAR LORD! The studio decided that it was a good idea to include the movie's very last line in its promotion. Now since I mostly don't cover movies anymore, I walked into "Deja Vu" knowing absolutely nothing about the movie except what I'd seen in the trailers, but I *had* -- unavoidably -- seen the trailer and the movie must have been 15 minutes in before I realized, from the trailer, how every single step of the movie was going to progress from there. Yeah, "Deja Vu" was a tough movie to market but geez... Given that it made an underwhelming $28-million-plus in its first long weekend, Buena Vista obviously bungled the job on several levels.
It's disappointing, because for much of its running time, "Deja Vu" is a dazzling and dizzying thriller that runs in enough circles to obscure its mostly illogical time-loop premise that plays like "Day Break" meets "Enemy of the State" meets every single movie in which Denzel Washington plays that one good cop going on a crusade against the corrupt system. The movie cheats many rules of Hollywood structure in that the time travel aspect -- given away in the trailer, naturally -- doesn't kick in until well past the half-way point. In fact, Denzel's tip-toeing through the timeline is the least interesting part of the movie, so thin and uninvolving from a character and emotional standpoint that even if you *didn't* reverse-engineer the movie based on the trailer, you'd probably walk out a little flat.
It turns out that plot is king here, which isn't surprising. What is surprising is just how thin all of the characters are. Denzel is a AFT agent. Nothing more or less. The lovely Paula Patton is the innocent woman in the middle of things. Nothing more or less. Although the cast is loaded with familiar character actors who have played surprise villains in the past, the actual villain behind an impressive ferry explosion is just a fanatical wacko, a McVeigh-inspired "Patriot" without any backstory or extra motivation. Since it's an over-priced B-movie, you forgive that stuff.
Scott exploits Hurricane Katrina marvelously, tying the film's New Orleans setting in with its major theme -- some tragedies (killer storms, for example) can't be prevented, but how far would you go to prevent a hypothetically preventable disaster? New Orleans is used mostly for background flavor, with a large portion of the film taking place in a high tech trailer. The second unit took a trip to the ruins of the Ninth Ward for a jaunt that barely ties to the plot.
If the Disney marketing department hadn't spoiled the entire movie for me, I honestly can't say how it might have played differently. I guess this goes under the heading of Things I Can't Go Back In Time To Change. Nuts.