Friday, December 15, 2006

DEJA VU - if CSI were a movie

DEJA VU is a Jerry Bruckheimer produced film. That means you get a very slick, polished entertainment package with not a faint echo of his hit show CSI. DEJA VU is also helmed by Tony Scott. This means you get the glossy look of a hi-spend ad campaign coupled with incessantly roving camera-work - it's all camera pans, helicopter shots and hi-def explosions. Combined, we get one of the most pollished but emotionally manipulative opening sequences of a movie that I can remember. With practically no dialogue the camera swoops over a ferry in New Orleans on a sunny Mardi Gras. The ferry is filled with bouncing babies with blonde curls, smiling beautiful yuppie couples and US navy men in shining white uniform. The Beach Boys - the band of sun-kissed all-american happy summers - are playing on a car radio. You don't get more patriotic or Hallmark card than that. And then we get the terrorist explosion. Scott doesn't hold back from depicting quasi-9/11 images. We have soldiers on fire jumping into the water.

And then we segue to Denzel Washington doing his trademark schtick. He just oozes integrity and to see him - an ATF officer - scouting the crime scene - is to feel his righteous indignation. He is a good man. The movie then does around 30 minutes CSI work where Denzel's character realises that to solve the terrorist attack the FBI (headed up by Val Kilmer) will have to solve the murder of an attractive local woman. These thirty minutes are entertaining in much the same way as CSI - and as a guage to whether you'll like the movie, ask yourself whether you still get cheap thrills from seeing an officer with tweezers and a plastic baggie.

The next thirty minutes are a little more dull. Denzel and Val use a cool "live feed" surveillance mechanism that gives a one-time view of a limited radius 4 days ago to watch. They pretty much sit around watching the murdered woman. Denzel falls in love. It's all a little pedestrian. The writers create an obstacle - the limited radius of the feed - which forces Denzel into a sup'ed-up hummer to track the baddie - thus providing the audience with a satisfyingly gnarly car chase to break the boredom.

The next twenty minutes or so see Denzel force the FBI into a confession that this is not so much a video feed as a means of actually interacting with the past. He uses this feature to track the terrorist and bring him to justice. Here lies the natural end of an above-average crime procedural with the added boost of a discretely used sci-fi doo-dad.

Sadly, the film does NOT end here but continues in an end sequence that was designed to provide an emotional payoff. Problem is that it tips us over the line of willing suspension of disbelief regarding the time-gadget and opens up a variety of plot problems to do with different time-lines and whatnot. It's a great shame. What could have been a rather subversive thriller becomes an emotionally over-loaded, structural mess. Still, if you just walk out of the cinema after Jim Caviezel's big scene, you'll have had 90 minutes of pure popcorn entertainment.

DEJA VU is already on release in the US, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil, Spain, Venezuala, Thailand, Indonesia, Greece, Israel, Singapore, Latvia, Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy and the UK. It opens in Sweden, Hungary, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and New Zealand on the 22nd and in Denmark, Norwar, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic over Christmas. It opens in Chile, Hong Kong, Poland and Turkey on January 5th and in Argentina on the 11th. It finally rolls into Australia on January 18th and Japan on March 24th.

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