Like “Man on Fire,” the previous collaboration between Washington and Scott, “Deja Vu” is stunning but poorly paced, a film that manages to be both captivating and frustrating

Denzel Washington stars twice over in Tony Scott's time-traveling thriller that starts with a bang and ends with a brain-teaser

Like “Man on Fire,” the previous collaboration between Washington and Scott, “Deja Vu” is stunning but poorly paced, a film that manages to be both captivating and frustrating

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Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, James Caviezel, Adam Goldberg, Elden Henson, Erika Alexander, Bruce Greenwood, Rich Hutchman, Matt Craven, Donna Scott
Duration: 126 minutes

Decidely average action director Tony Scott (Enemy of the State/Top Gun/Man on Fire) teams once again with delicedly average action producer Jerry Bruckheimer for this sci-fi action thriller starring Denzel Washington as New Orleans-born agent Doug Carlin, who travels back in time to not only solve but prevent a devastating crime committed by a Timothy McVeigh-like patriot. The terrorist is played by Jim Caviezel spouting his gripes against the government with the same passion he played Jesus in Gibson's Passion Of The Christ.

Writers Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio cook up a whopper of a story playing fast and loose with time travel theories and intermingling that tale with a story about home-grown terrorist Carrol Oerstadt (Caviezel) and a routine crime procedural murder mystery that covers the murder of beautiful Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton).

This is the first film shot in post-Katrina New Orleans and uses for a major scene the ruins of the Ninth Ward. It opens in New Orlean's Canal Street dock where 543 men, women and children, including many sailors, have boarded a passenger ferry for a Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday. Before it can sail, the ferryboat is blown to pieces by an explosion killing them all. The scene is impressive, especially since it wasn't done by computer.

Lonely super sleuth Carlin comes to the crime scene late and, although it has already been investigated by the FBI, finds a tiny piece of evidence that no one else could. It that should be enough to nab the bomber. This impresses pudgy FBI agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) so much so that he takes Carlin to the top-secret government bunker and lets him in on the secret computer tracking device his people have invented called Snow White (an advanced surveillance system), that can unfold back the past and therefore allow one to revisit the past.

The brain behind this device, Denny (Adam Goldberg), and his brillant techie team, explain all the mumbo jumbo involved, drooling over their techno-surveillance high-speed computer graphics that give off digitally enhanced images that hooks up seven satellites with their special all-seeing camera that can review events from four days ago. Carlin sees this technology as not only an opportunity to solve the case (Columbo eat your heart out) but, after catching a peek at the beautiful murder victim, Claire, on a slab in the morgue and then in the raw in the shower, he's now hopelessly pining for her and dares to rescue her and prevent the tragedy by himself returning to the past.

The supernatural stuff attempted is nothing but high-concept gimmickry, which is at best pseudo-science and its narrative bears no resemblance to the real world. It loses its bearings in hokum as it goes beyond even the Hollywood fantasy reality for the Superman flicks. The diversionary plot makes several references to Katrina and uses the Oklahoma City tragedy to make its terrorism point, but this time-travel romance and anti-terrorist thriller would have worked better if it was shot as a comedy (the lecture on quantum physics was funny like Jerry Lewis was in The Nutty Professor). The only sense of deja vu is seeing a lively Bourbon Street and the French Quarter again.

It is not hard to agree with the majority of critics who have hammered this film; the script is so convoluted and it leaves so many gaping holes one wonders if the makers should enter the donut business. Even for an action film, one winces at how convuleted and muddled it is. Avoid.



Cast Interviews:

DVD Extras: 'The Surveillance Window' - a feature which allows users to go back in time with the filmmakers and experience on set, behind the scenes moments just before they happen in the film. Exclusive deleted scenes.

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