Deja Vu AKA Déjà Vu
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (28th April 2007).
The Film

Tony Scott can easily be categorized as mass-market mainstream big-budget popcorn moviemaker. His films are bloated action spectacles often with big name stars filling the bill and appealing to the male demographic and on more than one occasion produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who hasn't made a film for under $100 in quite some time. Their collaborations have previously brought us "Top Gun" (1986), "Beverly Hills Cop II" (1987), "Days of Thunder" (1990), "Crimson Tide" (1995) and "Enemy of the State" (1998). All of which very popular films and all of which have grossed mammoth amounts of cash at the box office. It's fair to say that the Scott/Bruckheimer relationship works very well. And this team has delivered audiences another high-concept film, "Déjà Vu". Coming off of Scott's abysmal "Domino" (2005), which failed to ignite with critics and audiences, "Déjà Vu" allows us to forget that visual and stylistic train wreck. Re-teaming with Denzel Washington for a third time, the film is a unique perspective on the whole time travel concept (although does use some popular ideas such as the fractured/alternate time line theory). It's also a film that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be exactly. The film is very multi-layered in the sense that it's a sci-fi, but it's also an action film, as well as a love story, and also a crime thriller...with all these genre's crammed into one film you'd think the filmmaker's would struggle with the story but on the contrary it seems to work, if only to help disguise the twists. By all rights this should be a mess, and there a few plot points that leave big enough gaps to generate concern, but the film's structure and style remains staunchly consistent and the film is an enjoyable ride, it's whether you buy into the film's over-the-top and seemingly unbelievable technology that would most likely determine whether you like this film or not.
"Déjà Vu" tells the story of ATF investigator Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington), who is looking into a terrorist attack on a ferry in New Orleans. The blast killed 500 people and one man is responsible for the tragedy. During the investigation he discovers that a woman, Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) washed up on shore and bearing burn scars was actually killed before the blast. His journey leads him to uncover why this woman's death was disguised as if she was a ferry victim and who the terrorist is with the help of FBI agent Andrew Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) that includes Carlin as part of a special team that has access to secret government technology that allows you to look at surveillance footage from 4 and a half days prior with the use of satellites. Carlin believes the key to solving the crime and finding the terrorist lies with the death of Claire Kuchever.
As mentioned before this film works on many levels, half way through this film it quite literally turns into a sci-fi film with the introduction of the satellite technology and the particle chamber that allows objects (and later on, humans) to be sent back in time. The key to balancing these things is to remain consistent and also allow the audience to process the over-the-top nature of the film's technology, Scott achieves this consistency with the use of style and design in terms of the way the film is shot and edited. There isn't a drastic change that would signal a transition from crime thriller to sci-fi...additionally the writers Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio use the main character Carlin as a device that acts as the audiences' voice, that voice being of a skeptical nature, having that voice in the film provides us with a relatable character amid all this unbelievable technology and the whole time travel thing.
Being a Bruckheimer production this film is not lacking in action, from the opening ferry explosion scene (which was all practically achieved without any visual effects) to the exciting car chase. That scene in particular makes this film essential viewing for action film fans, Carlin is chasing the terrorist in real time traffic but looking through in the past 4 and a half days ago (I really hope that makes sense, because I've tried about a hundred different ways to phrase that sentence and that's the closest I can get it without sounding too confusing). The coolest thing about this car chase is that the filmmaker's utilized new equipment, a crane with a gyroscopic camera attachment which is bolted to the roof of a stunt car that allowed them to achieve some rather impressive shots in and among the traffic and capturing 360 degrees of action in every direction.
I was also impressed the filmmakers chose to shoot in New Orleans, especially after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The filmmaker's helped support the city with a boost in employment and local industry as well as incorporating the effects of the hurricane in the film itself by shooting in locations such as the devastated 9th ward district.
Acting-wise Denzel brings credibility to the file and delivers a fine turn as the instinctive and skeptical ATF agent. Jim Caviezel, in a rather inspired cast against type manner is equally impressive as our villain, the terrorist Carroll Oerstadt. He manages to send chills down your back with his ruthless and near-psychotic presence. Unfortunately the rest of the cast are rather forgettable, Val Kilmer seems to have put on a few pounds of late and delivers a modest performance, in actual fact there wasn't anything special about his character and it could have been played by just about anyone. Paula Patton's role is the most difficult to pull off because he don't actually see her alive for most of the film the only glimpses into her life we do see are through the display monitors from the 4 and a half days ago footage. Once she does come into the scene it's the standard damsel in distress routine but with slightly better acting.
"Déjà Vu" was not nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be; in fact it was a solid film with some cool ideas and the always reliable Denzel Washington. It's certainly worth a rental and if you're already a fan then you probably already own it on DVD.

Video

Presented in 2.40:1, this anamorphic widescreen transfer is an excellent effort from Buena Vista. The image is sharp and detail is perfectly clear. The colors are well saturated and appear as the director and cinematographer designed it to look, with an emphasis on greens and deep bold blacks. I found no evidence of edge-enhancement, film grain was virtually non-existent and there were no issues with compression artefacts. Overall I am pleased to report that this is a pristine image transfer presented on this disc.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included for this film and they are in English Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. For the purposes of this film I chose to view it with its English soundtrack. The dialogue was clean and crystal clear without any distortion, but seeing as this is a sci-fi/action film/crime thriller it's the total activity within the surround channels that make it shine. The track is a totally immersive and aggressive surround experience; the action scenes virtually erupt throughout the sound space from explosions to gun shots to car chases and crashes this track is extremely active and displays some incredible range and depth. Furthermore the subtle ambient surrounds are present and sound natural and the score makes ample use of the space enveloping the viewer. As far as Dolby Digital tracks go this is reference quality.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

irst up is the seamless in-movie experience entitled "The Surveillance Window" this feature allows the viewer access to a feature-length audio commentary by director Tony Scott, co-writer Bill Marsilii and producer Jerry Bruckheimer as well as a series of 10 featurettes that is accessible only when watching the entire film and periodically the film will pause and you will be taken to a featurette that takes a look at the making-of process once the clip is complete you are returned to the film where the commentary continues. The commentary covers various aspects of the production as director Scott comments on his directorial decisions as well as shooting on location in New Orleans and in working with the cast, he occasionally comments on the visual style, how certain scenes were shot and various production issues. He also sheds light on how this film was originally intended to be R-rated but instead was released as a PG-13, Scott comments that a much darker more violent version of the film exists, I guess this is an indication that we'll have to double-dip on this title at some point in the future? Co-writer Marsilii takes us into the scriptwriting process, setting up the film's various twists and turns as well as grounding the film in some sort of reality, the research that was undergone for the script among other things while producer Bruckheimer spends most of time telling us how great the actors were and occasionally providing Scott with something to talk about. The integrated featurettes cover: "The Ferry Explosion", "Developing the Character of Doug Carlin", "Makeup, Wardrobe, and Special Effects", "The Surveillance Window", "Cameras of Deja Vu", "Split Time for Car Chase", "Filming in New Orleans", "First Team: Denzel, Tony, and Jerry", "Stunts: Compound" and finally "Stunts: Ferry" and have a total runtime of 37 minutes 13 seconds. They all take us behind-the-scenes of the film as cast and crew are interviewed. While this is a very cool idea to integrate these two types of extras together it would have been worth while to include an option that allowed viewers access to the featurettes separately in case you don't want to watch the whole film all over again.

Next up is a series of 5 deleted scenes that include optional audio commentary by director Tony Scott, these scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' function. These scenes include:

- "Church Choir" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds, Carlin goes to a gospel memorial in Claire's Dad's neighborhood.
- "Turtle Story" which runs for 2 minutes 36 seconds, Carlin tells FBI agent Pryzwarra about a turtle that survived the Oklahoma bombing.
- "Carlin Studies Claire" runs for 2 minutes 44 seconds, Carlin looks through Claire's records and personal effects for any clues as to how she died.
- "Beth and Abbey See Claire" runs for 53 seconds, Beth and daughter Abbey see Claire jump onto the ferry.
- "Beth and Abbey Live" runs for 56 seconds, Beth and Abbey check to see if Claire is ok.

Following that are 3 extended scenes that also include optional audio commentary by director Tony Scott, these scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' function. The scenes included are:

- "Extended Ferry Aftermath" which runs for 1 minute 24 seconds, this scene includes additional footage of Carlin seeing the strange equipment used by the other government agents that sets-up things for later in the film.
- "Claire Held Captive" runs for 2 minutes 22 seconds, this is a longer and more violent version of the scene were Oerstadt dumps the diesel on Claire.
- "Carlin Shares with Claire" runs for 1 minute 50 seconds, this is a longer version of the scene were Carlin and Claire are on the way from her apartment to the ferry, this includes additional dialogue about their emotions/love story elements.

Rounding out the extras are some bonus trailers for:

- "Kyle XY: Season 1" which runs for 1 minute 34 seconds.
- "The Queen" which runs for 2 minutes 19 seconds.
- "Anti-piracy" spot which runs for 54 seconds.

Packaging

This DVD is packaged in an amaray case that is housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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