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DVD Review: Déjà Vu

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Beginning with a horrific bombing of the New Orleans Canal Street Ferry, Déjà Vu is a visually intense movie. Reminiscent somewhat of the sci-fi plot, images and film techniques of Spielberg’s Minority Report, Tony Scott employs a combination of a high definition Genesis, Time Track, and Lydar cameras to create Déjà Vu. It’s very slick stuff, but it’s not done just for the sake of showing off cinematic technology.

After the explosion, ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) arrives at the disaster site. Here, the slow-motion aftermath/clean up scenes are gruesome and too familiar. When Carlin walks past a row of bodies covered in black tarp and hears a cell phone ringing; he and the audience are hit with the reality that somebody’s loved one isn’t coming home.

And the face of death continues to appear, this time as a lovely woman on an autopsy table. Carlin was called because although she appears to be another bombing victim – complete with burn marks; her body washed up on the banks of the Mississippi an hour before the ferry exploded. Immediately Carlin is intrigued, not just by the inconsistencies, but by the woman herself, Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton).

As ATF, FBI, and local police investigate the crime scene, Doug Carlin settles in, and soon his good nature and intelligence cause FBI agent Andrew Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) to ask him to join a newly formed special investigative team. This group utilizes multiple surveillance cameras that provide data in one continuous stream. They’d like Carlin to help them focus their search. He tries to be open minded, but he’s having trouble understanding how this data will be useful, or how he can help. But he just found out that his partner Larry was one of the ferry victims. This blow, plus his interest in the dead woman Claire, puts him in the middle of one of the most bizarre settings, not just of his career, but of all police forensics, period.

And here I’ll state the obvious. The great thing about a DVD is that you can watch the content more than once. Of course, in the old days, if someone were so inclined, they’d attend the cinema over and over again to catch every trickle of sweat, every heart-stopping gunshot, and every impossibly beautiful sunset over expansive epic scenery. They would hear the most intriguing, compelling, poetic dialogue; get lost in the perfect musical score and capture and echo every lover’s sigh and moan in their hearts.

Or this moviegoer, this cinema geek, would seek the object of his or her affection again and again, simply to figure the damn thing out.

Is this the case with Déjà Vu? Yes and no. In my first sitting, I had to stop half way through mostly because it was late, but partially because I had reached my saturation point. I couldn’t handle much more. A day or two later, when I got the chance to finish the film, I had enough information to make sense of it, and I could really relax and get lost in the story. Relax is a bit of a paradoxical term, because the last stretches of the story are pretty fast paced, plenty of suspense – and a decent ending.

But – and I can’t say why – this really IS the sort of thing you want to have on hand, you really need to see it again, and not just to get missing bits of information, you’ll be compelled to watch it again – just to see if it’s not just some sort of trompe-l'œil, “trick the eye” device.

Favorite Scenes: Bruckheimer’s iconic production logo plays right along with the theme; it stops action, reverses, and then continues forward.

There’s an interesting bit of dialogue between Carlin and Claire’s father as he hands Carlin some photos. “I know how these things go”, said Mr. Kuchever, “I want her to matter to you.” What Mr. Kuchever doesn’t realize, is that his deceased daughter has already made an impact on Carlin.

Another scene is where Carlin is trying to track a suspect with a scanning helmet called a Goggle Rig. It remind me of Denzel Washington’s The Bone Collector except instead of playing Lincoln Rhyme’s forensics expert guiding a staff of investigators – he is the one being guided by a group of experts. Carlin’s search with the Goggle Rig ends up as a fierce chase scene, complete with him driving on the wrong side of oncoming traffic.

Jim Caviezel played a chilling and pivotal role as Carroll Oerstadt, the terrorist bomber. He doesn’t have as much screen time as Washington or Patton, but there’s an interrogation scene with Carlin’s Denzel that is very well played. It sure makes us forget that Caviezel played an earthy but virtuous Jesus not too long ago.

DVD Extras

Trailers: The Queen. This was a decent trailer that actually entices me to see the film.
Kyle XY – First Complete Season. Been curious about this show, but not that curious to need a boxed set

Surveillance Window: A commentary, just under 40 minutes, by Bruckheimer, Scott, and writers Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio. There’s access to behind the scenes particulars such as the process used to actually create the ferry explosion. (Hint, not nearly enough CG as you’d think.) We also learn that the screenplay was written on spec, and we see the painstaking recreation of a burned corpse, who also just happens to be one of the stars of the film, Paula Patton.

It also includes details on how a visit to Brookhaven National Laboratory, enabled the production team to replicate an ion collider, which would be a crucial part of the more scientific trappings of the film.

Extended and Deleted Scenes: The extended scenes aren’t particularly noteworthy, but the deleted scenes are worth watching, they fill in some back story nicely.

Original Release – 2006
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Directed by Tony Scott
Written by Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio
DVD Release: April 24, 2007
Running Time: 126 minutes
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Widescreen (2.35:1) Enhanced for 16×9 screens

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About MaryKay

  • Unfortunately the combination of Bruckheimer and T. Scott does not encourage me to ever want to see this, but I will take solace from your wonderfully informative review!

  • Aaron – you might just like it. I bet you will!