Tony Scott is one of my favorite directors and it's too bad he has had some ups and downs recently. I was really looking forward to Deja Vu after I saw the travesty that was Domino. Then Ridley's movie came out and flopped hard. So I was in the mood for a good Scott film, thankfully Deja Vu is a sharp thriller that bleeds Tony Scott's ultra visual style. The plot is a bit over the top, but it's not so preposterous that you won't be able to enjoy the film. Essentially a terrorist blows up a ferry filled with navy soldiers on leave in New Orleans. ATF Agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is assigned with the case of solving the crime and motive for destroying the ferry. An agent played by Val Kilmer offers Carlin the opportunity to solve the case by using a technology that is able to see any event 4 days in the past, a wormhole if you will. Carlin tries to map out the terrorist's location by studying a young woman's accidental involvement. The terrorists is played superbly by Jim Caviezal and the young woman is played by Paula Patton. Doug Carlin decides to use the machine to throw himself back in time to prevent the act thus saving the lives of hundreds of people. If you can suspend your belief for 2 hours then this film is simply great action entertainment.
The script was written by first time screenwriter Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio who has gained fame for co-writing the Pirates Of The Caribbean films. Tony Scott made this film his own and kept things really tight and focused. The scenes where the group of people are searching back in time to focus on certain locations for clues reminds me of the camera work that Scott used in Enemy Of The State. Scott's last two films (3 including Beat The Devil) relied heavily on his highly stylized exposures and quick paced editing. Man On Fire used this style to perfection while Domino was just a way for him to show it off some more. Deja Vu does have that same style but there is so much less of it, very similar to the way Spy Game was shot. He uses lots of close-ups, which make the movie really tense because we are always staring right into the eyes of the characters. Every time Tony Scott works with Denzel Washington it seems like a winner. Crimson Tide and Man On Fire were two extremely extraordinary action films. We also have Jerry Bruckheimer producing, which is great because he has such a great history with both Tony Scott and Ridley Scott.
One thing that I always look forward to when I see a Tony Scott film is the score by Harry Gregson-Williams. Harry Gregson-Williams is #2 favorite composer behind Hans Zimmer, and his electronic style matches Tony Scott's vision so perfectly. Tony Scott originally worked with Hans Zimmer and Zimmer scored Days Of Thunder, Crimson Tide, The Fan, and True Romance for Tony Scott. I guess Ridley Scott decided that he wanted Hans all to himself, so Harry Gregson-Williams was assigned the job of co-composer for Enemy Of The State and the two have worked together ever since. If you recall Spy Game's score and Man On Fire's score you could probably place your finger right in the middle of those two and sort of get a feel for the score for Deja Vu. Harry Gregson-Williams didn't go balls out like he did with Domino, but resorts to the piano and the occasional single trumpet to create tension. Strings back up the electronic parts of the score that has Harry Gregson-Williams written all over it. An interesting thing to note was that he used a unique technique of having the orchestra play the music in reverse and then forwarding it in the computer so as to create a unique feel for the central theme of Deja Vu. From what I can tell he only did that on the first cue during the opening credits where we see the logos. A terrific score that really enhances the film greatly.
When you have Denzel Washington as your lead actor it rarely means a bad movie. As I mentioned before, Denzel Washington has collaborated with Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer many times before. You can sense that everyone feels like they are in their element because the cast and crew are close. Another tidbit worth mentioning is that there is one scene where we see the young woman played by Paula Patton babysitting a little girl. That girl is Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota Fanning who played Pita in Scott's Man On Fire. Anyway, back to Denzel, he creates a great character here. Jim Caviezal was actually incredibly good as the terrorist. The only downside to that role is that the guy is just mentally unstable and that's why he does everything that he does, which is not very original when it comes to bad guys these days. Paula Patton plays Claire and while she doesn't really craft a character in this film she does provide support for Denzel Washington's character. Val Kilmer enters in his middle-aged scruffy mode and isn't the main focus of the supporting cast, but his presence is nice and he adds some credibility to the cast.
Deja Vu may be a little farfetched, but I really liked it as a sharp and smart piece of action entertainment. It was tense and kept me involved all the way through. There were no slow pockets in the film whatsoever. The fact that the bad guy is just a man with psychological problems makes the movie a little unoriginal, but Deja Vu will entertain you and is worth the price of admission.