I heard a lot of bad things about Déjà vu, with words tossed around like "contrived," "unbelievable," and "Jerry Bruckheimer." My parents, with their big screen television, forced me to sit down and watch the movie at 11 p.m., when I was ready to go to bed. But instead, I watched right to the end around 1 a.m. It's that good.
Déjà vu entails a terrorist attack by a really safe-kind of terrorist, the now almost-quaint homegrown American type who doesn't like America because…well, just because. Back when we didn't have enemies lurking around every corner, for a brief time America was its own worst enemy, and it's obvious Déjà vu was created from that era.
Our resident terrorist Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel, who once played a famous carpenter you might have heard of) decides to bomb a New Orleans ferry full of Navy sailors. The incident is no less horrific despite Oerstadt's unspecified reasons for the attack. Enter our hero, ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington), invited to join the investigation by FBI Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer). Since Carlin can't seem to find his partner and has the expertise to "examine the data," it seems like a good idea.
The plot thickens when Doug discovers the body of Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton), who appears to have been murdered before the bomb went off. That's when the science fiction piece comes into play. The FBI team has a device that allows them to track four days in the past. Of course, Doug figures it out soon enough-they're not just viewing the past, they're actually experiencing the past. And if one can experience the past, then maybe one can travel there…
This little restriction (only four days in the past, no more, no less) is an important plot twist. It lends a sense of urgency to an otherwise difficult concept for a thriller. Déjà vu makes the time travel element easy to accept, because the tantalizing possibilities spiral from there: other plot paths tie together (what happened to Doug's partner?) and there's even an amazing car chase where Doug must race in the present to view where Carroll goes in the past. It has to be seen to be believed.
Summaries of this film make much of Doug falling in love with Claire. But it's a borderline stalker relationship, as Doug knows Claire primarily through his time traveling surveillance. Fortunately, Déjà vu doesn't overdo it; there's not even a major onscreen kiss (more like a peck on the lips). And that's just as it should be…the events are too action packed, the pacing too frenetic. Anything more would border on camp.
Because Déjà vu is always moving, the actors primarily stay out of the way and let the action roll. There are a few clever lines ("We held hands once."), a few bad script rewrites ("I need more cowbell"? Come on guys, stop trying to be so hip) and plenty of gravely serious meditations on the existential nature of the universe. But mostly it's about blowing things up.
Déjà vu is an awesomely entertaining thriller with enough action, enough science fiction, and just enough skin to keep everybody interested. Don't miss it…again.