When a ferry, ‘The Algiers’, carrying hundreds of Navy sailors and their families explodes, killing hundreds of those on board, ATF agent, Doug Carlin is sent in to investigate. Then, a woman’s charred body is found near the scene but it appears that she was killed before the explosion. Working with the FBI, Carlin is persuaded to join a team that use a new form of technology to see four days and six hours into the past. Using this technology, Carlin has the opportunity to find the terrorist responsible for the explosion but when he finds a message saying ‘U can save her’, he wonders if there could be a chance of actually going back in time to prevent the woman’s murder.
Déjà Vu (2006) – Director: Tony Scott
Running Length: 126 mins
Starring: Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, Val Kilmer
Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction
‘Déjà Vu’ is a clever crime thriller intermingled with science fiction, making a believable and interesting concept. The story, revolving around the need to discover the identity of the bomber becomes flimsy when the time travel idea is introduced; could this technology not be used in another way? The transition from typical crime drama to science fiction jars a little and becomes quite messy, as if the direction towards the end of the movie wasn’t entirely clear. Also, the focus shifts wildly between the woman who Carlin wants to save (who he falls in love with extremely quickly) and the terrorist’s identity and motivations making it quite hard to follow.
Washington, as the lead, is very watchable but this role doesn’t exactly stretch his acting talent. The majority of the supporting cast are unfortunately barely there and rather forgettable and this lack of character depth and development stops the story from progressing. There are lots of unnecessarily long, moody shots of Washington as he investigates the bombing, adding to the length of the film which could have much better had the plot been shorter and more tightly woven. Despite all of these flaws, ‘Déjà Vu’ isn’t a bad film. It’s entertaining and breathes fresh air into the tired cop/thriller genre. It’s simply disappointing that it is not as good as it could have been.
IS ‘DÉJÀ VU’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
The movie opens with sailors and their families boarding a ferry. There are numerous shots of young families with children who are typically aged under 10. One little girl is upset when she drops her doll over the side and watches as the doll floats in the water below. When the bomb explodes, the fireball engulfs the entire ferry and it appears to be unlikely that anyone on board could have survived. There are no shots of anyone being in the explosion or suffering as the explosion is seen from a distance so, other than the implication of innocent people being killed, nothing on-screen should be too distressing for kids. Afterwards, dozens of bodybags are lined up along the bank of the river and the dialogue of one of the characters explains that there have been at least 543 deaths.
When a woman’s body is found near to the site of the explosion, an autopsy is performed. The coroner describes that the burns covered over 30% of her body and she is shown on camera with some non-graphic burns to the side of her face and head. The coroner then holds up one of her hands and three stumps can be seen where her fingers once were and it is made clear that they were chopped off. It is also mentioned that the woman was burned alive.
The dead woman is seen by Carlin and the FBI team when they use their technology to see into the past. She walks around her home in her underwear and later removes her clothes in order to take a shower. Her body is mostly obscured by shadows, however there is a brief shot where her breasts are clearly visible before she pulls the shower curtain across; several of the men stare at her with their mouths open. A female member of the team asks whether spying on her in the shower is relevant to the investigation and a male colleague gives her a flimsy excuse as to why they should continue to watch her.
As the action increases, several people are shot. One character who has been established within the story but barely seen on camera is shot and loaded into a vehicle by the terrorist. This incident happened in the past and although Carlin can watch what is happening, he is unable to help. When the terrorist returns to his hideout, he takes the man from the vehicle and douses him with fuel. The FBI team are clearly distressed by this, especially when one character says ‘he’s waking up’. Carlin tells them ‘Brace yourselves, I think you’re about to witness a murder’. When the terrorist sees that the man is still alive, he quickly shoots him dead before lighting his corpse on fire.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘Déjà Vu’ ticks all the boxes for a crime thriller and adds an extra flair with the element of time travel but somewhat fails to hit the mark in terms of being radical with its concept. This is definitely a movie for adults and is likely to be a bit too slow for kids to thoroughly enjoy. We feel that ‘Déjà Vu’ should be appropriate for kids aged 10 and over.
- Violence: 3/5 (some gun violence throughout the movie, descriptions of injuries that have been inflicted may be quite distressing for younger kids)
- Emotional Distress: 1/5 (Carlin discovers that someone close to him has been killed in the explosion and is upset by their death but this does not get overly emotional)
- Fear Factor: 1/5
- Sexual Content: 2/5 (some female nudity. There is a shot of the top of a man’s behind as he crouches on the floor and a joke is made about this by another character. When Carlin is talking to a male prisoner, he tells him ‘You better have some KY, you’re gonna need it’)
- Bad Language: 1/5 (infrequent mild to moderate cursing and blasphemy)
- Dialogue: 3/5
- Other notes: Deals with themes of murder, terrorism, stopping a tragedy from happening, using technology to investigate a crime, the advantages of surveillance and using your intelligence to outwit a criminal.
Words by Laura Record
In his most effective thriller since Enemy of the State, Tony Scott makes time travel seem plausible. It helps that his New Orleans hero, ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington in his third go-round with the director), spends more time in the present than the past. In order to catch a terrorist, FBI Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) invites Carlin to join forces. They have the technology to see the past. He has the expertise to interpret the data. Unfortunately, the bomb has already gone off and hundreds of ferry passengers have died. Then there's the body of a beautiful woman, Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton, Idlewild), that turns up in the vicinity of the blast. Evidence indicates she was killed beforehand. Since the FBI enables him to observe Claire prior to her murder, Carlin gets to know what she was like and finds himself falling in love. He becomes convinced that the only way to solve the case--and prove her innocence--is to travel to the past. But as Pryzwarra's colleague, Denny (Adam Goldberg), argues, "You cannot go back in time. It's physically impossible." Or so he says. Déjà Vu is constructed around a clever script and executed by a top-notch cast, notably Washington, Patton, and an eerie Jim Caviezel (miles away from Passion of the Christ). In shedding the excesses of recent years--the sadism of Man on Fire and weirdness of Tarantino favorite Domino--Scott re-affirms his rep as one of the action movie's finest practitioners. --Kathleen C. Fennessy