Lowdown: Time travel as a religious experience.
I have often been found criticizing American cinema in this blog while at the same time openly admitting that the films I like the most are American. However, I never really said what it is that I regard as "American" in a film. What is this "American" spice that is so often added to a film and makes it so much worse than it could have been? Well, I am not about to give you the ultimate answer here and now, but I will point at the most classic demonstrator of this American attribute: Tony Scott. Case in point: Top Gun, a film that tries to glorify almost everything this world should get rid of, but in a cool way. Tony Scott's latest, Deja Vu, shows he hasn't really been learning much since the days of Maverick and Goose.
Deja Vu's story seems to be truly up to date: It doesn't only take September 11 for granted, it also builds upon hurricane Katrina; I don't know how they managed to create it so quickly given that. As it goes, a ferry carrying some 500 people during a holiday explodes in the middle of New Orleans, and ATF agent Denzel Washington is there to start an investigation. He finds some clues as he goes about, but then he's invited by the FBI to use their newest facilities: screens that show you exactly what happened exactly four days ago from any angle you want. The FBI wants to utilize Washington's investigative capabilities, but quickly enough we learn that these facilities of their are, "in fact", some sophisticated mechanism to fold the space-time curve and bring the events of four days ago to the present. By examining the past, Washington comes up with new leads. But why stop there? If we can see into the past we can go into the past, and that's exactly what Washington does.
Sounds like your regular nerve recking sophisticated time travel action film, only that it isn't. I mean, it is very thrilling and it is a time travel film, the only problem is that it's not sophisticated. At least not properly sophisticated. You see, there is a prominent religious agenda that hijacks the film: early on we see Washington taking part at a funeral, and the priest says something like "whatever happened shall happen" and "all that happens is god's will". The rest of the film seems to go out and prove those very words, and the result is that instead of the film feeling sophisticated it feels as if it was hijacked. Everything, including the science that is there
to support the main time travel idea of the film, is twisted in order to support the film's cause; it all feels very artificial as a result. There are many other films out there that deal with time travel and tell you much less about the science behind it - say, The Terminator; however, none feels as contrived as Deja Vu.
Problems don't just end there. After all, this is a Tony Scott film, and in the Tony Scott way everything is over dramatized and made to look and sound bombastic. As Washington goes to the toilet the camera sweeps across with a multitude of short edited panning shots, while thunders strike with each drop of pee hitting the toilet's surface. No, such a scene doesn't really exist, but all the rest of the film feels exactly like that. And just as with Top Gun, there are plenty of inconsistencies (Washington walking inside the FBI compound while an FBI agent follows him with a car - when Washington hasn't left the building).
Also rampant are things that just so conveniently seem to happen - like the female victim that is the main lead in the investigation just happening to be so conveniently black, as if tailor made to act against Washington. Which is exactly the problem: under the guise of a science fiction film we are also asked to accept Scott's not so well hidden social agendas, which - in this case - include blacks dating blacks. And only blacks. No reason to ask why.
Most annoying scene: Washington discovers the true nature of the FBI surveillance system, triggering a "deep" discussion (I'm being very sarcastic here) about the nature of the system and the physics behind it. It's all handled as short sentence slogans, and it's all so very twisted in order to serve the film's agenda. This is exactly the way brainwashing starts.
Things get worse, though. The FBI tells Washington that the recent blackouts in the USA are the result of power drains caused by this system, and the point is further emphasized later in the film. Thing is, that's bullshit: we know exactly what the causes of those blackouts were, and none was as exotic and mystic as what the film is suggesting; however, the laymen watching this heavily "spiritual" film can easily use its mis-education to further advance any existing notions about mysticism and spiritualism they might have already had in their heads. Fodder for more conspiracy theories. To me it's just lies; why do we need more disinformation?
Picture quality: To make things look even bigger than they are, Scott uses high contrast stock. This has a bit of a grainy and compressed look to it, but other than that and the occasional washed out colors the picture is good.
Sound quality: Over bombastic at times, the sound is disappointing in its failure to immerse the viewer.
Overall: Because it's quite tense and action packed, and because I think Washington is a world class performer, I thought of giving Deja Vu 3 stars. However, if you were to ask me whether I like this film and whether I would recommend it, my answer would simply be "no"; I'll therefore downgrade it a bit and settle for a cold 2.5 out of 5 stars. After all, the concept of the government tracking us wherever we go is, after all, something we should be worried about.