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Film Review Deja Vu

Posted on by sam

Déjà Vu

Director: Tony Scott (2006)

[The Following review may contain a number of Tony Scott ‘facts’, these facts are false to the best of the writer’s knowledge and added purely for shits and giggles]

This review is all thanks to Source Code, an incredibly watchable and well-made film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which the trailers made look like a Déjà vu clone. Having eaten humble pie and taken my hat off to the Source Code team, I wanted to reassure myself I didn’t owe the Déjà vu team, and in particular Tony Scott, a similar act of attrition.

Déjà Vu has a beginning that is great……………..………………………………………………………. actually not really, but it does helpfully act as a microcosm for the whole film. We begin our Tony Scott journey with lots of shots of sailors and families on a ferry competing for screen time with overly large/horrifically stylised credits. This battle leaves the scene completely devoid of tension or interest (unless you like seeing a little girl drop her dolly in the sea and then cry mercilessly while her neglectful parent/guardian appear to not give two shits, which I do) until we see a worker investigating a car radio that has suddenly turned on. A couple of beautiful cuts between the worker investigating this sudden radio transmission and the families enjoying themselves on deck follow while the worker’s expression tells us all is not right, it all gets a little creepy until finally he looks in the car boot and sees a bomb. Seconds later, a massive, over the top explosion with gratuitous screams and shots of flaming sailors propelled into the water kills any momentum the story has, and the passengers on the boat.

What follows is stupid, inane, nonsensical and worst of all, boring. Basically Denzel Washington is a cop who finds a body made to look like it died in the boat explosion, but actually died before. I say found, a mortician rings him, tells him about the body and the fact it died before the horrifically mood killing explosion, Denzel just hangs up his phone, but I’m guessing he realised it was important to the plot, and the mortician didn’t have a full schedule, or mind being hung up on so abruptly because in the next scene he’s in the morgue. His investigation leads him to the seven dwarf’s satellite system, as stupid as its name and hereby referred to as Tony Scott’s wet dream.

Bear with me here. It may get a little confusing. Tony Scott’s wet dream is some sort of epically big computer system thingy, using satellites to triangulate ………………….. stuff, and then render this ……………..stuff until it can see the past, but only a small area of the past, unless you’re wearing a headset thingy and driving a van recklessly in the wrong lane, and all this ……………..stuff you see is what happened exactly four days before the time you’re watching, but then all this ………………..stuff may actually be…………………… past stuff and instead of watching you can send pieces of paper back in time, but if you send a man back in time they burn, or have a heart attack, or achieve nothing, or destroy time. I’m not really sure, there seemed to be lots of different plot points depending on which character was talking, and I’ll be none religiously damned if I’m watching it again for the sake of clarity.

So the film becomes the old ‘stop a murder by voyeuristically watching the victim’ dealies that didn’t work in The Grudge 2 and doesn’t work here, the main problem being that the concept of Tony Scott’s wet dream is so ridiculous that it literally takes a third of the film to try and explain it, which, combined with the explosions and unnecessary reckless driving means there’s no room for character development, or story progression. I defy anyone who watched Déjà vu to think back now, without looking it up, and tell me why the bomber blew up the boat? Anyone? Nah, who am I kidding, no one’s reading this!

In a nutshell, the problem with Déjà vu is that it’s a ridiculous concept, executed as if it were simplicity itself. Instead of trying to make sense, it tries to entertain with special effects; explosions, car chases and a thousand different styles of cuts take place on screen, but every single one is to the absolute detriment to characters, story or audience interest. The issue is that, no matter how much anyone has tried, and unfortunately they have (Bay, Lucas, Spielberg, Fowler), special effects on their own cannot carry a story. Source Code is a good lesson in how combining effects with tension and character development makes for a great film. Déjà Vu is a master class in why you should watch Source Code! And neither is quite as good as Twelve Monkeys.

Plot spoilers galore coming up, so if you haven’t seen Déjà Vu than you can at least, no wait let me think about it, plot spoiler coming up, so if you haven’t seen Déjà Vu……………………………………………….…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. DON’T!

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Spoiler Alert

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I’ll start with the reckless driving, Denzel rides a big truck car thing down the wrong way of busy streets while watching the past in one eye and trying to not die. It leads to lots of ‘exciting’ near misses, and tons of collisions where people may or may not have died, then he crashes, loses the visual and has to follow the directions of the scientists, which is helpful as he can now fully concentrate both of his big brown cow eyes on the road, leading to a much more efficient journey. So why the fuck didn’t he just do that from the beginning and get the scientists to tell him where to go. Then there’s the fact he sent a piece of paper back in time, causing the death of his partner. Surely that’s at least manslaughter? Yet at no point is he reprimanded for any of these actions.

My final’ Denzel made to look a dick’ paragraph begins with an address to all action heroes everywhere, please, please, please watch Die Hard and see how John McClane acts. Know why he’s better than ninety per cent of you? Because he knows to call for help! In Die Hard the first half of the film is John trying to alert emergency services to what’s happening in the Nakatomi Plaza Building. In Déjà vu, thanks to some time travel trickery, Denzel gets the girl safe, his logical course of action is to then actively take her to the soon to be exploding boat, get on said boat, and then try to stop the explosion. I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure calling in a bomb threat, especially if you happen to actually be a police officer with a direct line to the higher ups, would, in fact be a great way to stop a soon to be exploding boat being boarded. Knowing the identity and whereabouts of the bombers hideout would probably be useful too. But then that would have taken time away from valuable chase/explosion/bizarre edits/nonsensical time travel exposition.

If you’ve seen the Man On Fire remake you’ll know how happily Tony Scott will give you a giant middle finger of an ending, and he continues this trend here. Denzel’s back in time, he’s trying to save the girl, but everything he’s done seems to be following fate, so there’s a very deliberate build in which you find yourself screaming, ‘just do something else you freaking moron, cut off a toe or something, get a haircut, anything that will show the future has changed’, while Denzel does everything he dickishly can to maintain the timeline. Then at the very end it’s all changed, Future Denzel drives off a dock and explodes while present day Denzel gets the girl, who only knows him from future Denzel. It’s ‘a happy ending’ that makes absolutely no sense, and is only thrown in so Scott can point at you and say his infamous line;

It’s the equivalent of ending Fight Club with an image of giant ants crawling out of the sea, or having Sixth Sense conclude with Bruce Willis being suddenly mauled by rabid tigers. Certainly surprising, maybe even enjoyable in the right context (Die Hard 4.0 anyone?, Or even Die Hard With A Vengeance in order to stop Die Hard 4.0 anyone?), but it makes no sense to the story that Déjà vu has told up until this point, and if anyone watching was stubbornly holding onto their tension, deflecting flying sailors, car crashes and a dickish Denzel Washington in the vain hope of a comfortable ending, this would almost certainly have ridden them of it, as well as any faith in filmmakers, and a desire to procreate. I’ll conclude with, if you do need your sci-fi time travel murder mystery disaster itch scratched, then watch Source Code, forget about this.

Written By Sam ‘At least it wasn’t Man On Fire’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

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