STARRING: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Bruce Greenwood, Adam Goldberg, Jim Caviezel

2007, 125 Minutes, Directed by:
Tony Scott

The title Déjà Vu refers to the feeling that the viewer gets that s/he has probably already seen it all somewhere before . . .

And the answer is that, yes, s/he probably saw it all before in a late-1990s TV series called Seven Days.

While it has been marketed as an “action thriller” Déjà Vu has a sci-fi gimmick at the heart of its plot: a device that allows one to see four days into the past as well as teleport objects and people into the past. Why four days? No-one knows exactly, but is probably something the screenwriters saw in abovementioned TV show in which a counterterrorist unit can time travel seven days no more, no less into the past. Sound familiar?

The actual experience of déjà vu (having the feeling as if you’ve been in a place where you’ve never actually been before in your entire life) is seldom featured in the film itself. Anyway, as was the case in Seven Days the time travel device here is used to piece together clues to solve who was behind a terrorist attack on a ferry boat in New Orleans. Denzil Washington plays the astoundingly competent Federal government official heading the investigation.

Later on the time machine is used not merely to catch the culprit (a domestic terrorist in the Timothy McVeigh vein, and not an Osama bin Laden type) but to actually prevent the terrorist attack from happening in the first place.

Like many time travel stories you’ll get a headache from trying to apply plot logic to it. Let’s face up to it. The first Terminator flick was probably the only one that got it right, by implying that it isn’t possible to change the past. Let’s say you do manage to send someone back in time to kill Hitler and prevent World War II from ever happening then it means WWII never happened and you never sent someone back in time to prevent it from happening in the first place, so . . .

This sort of circular logic dogs Déjà Vu and while you can argue you can’t change the past because of God or destiny or whatever, the point remains that you can’t change the past because of plot logic. Normally such paradoxes don’t bother one too much in the movies, but it does in Déjà Vu.

In Déjà Vu it should be enough that they solve who was behind the terrorist attack in question and catch the guilty parties, not actually prevent it from happening in the first place.

What could have been a neat statement on Fate and Destiny (capital letters) thus turns into typical action movie fare something they actually do a whole lot better in a show such as 24. By insisting on its happy ending Déjà Vu is all the less memorable for it . . . and in a few weeks time you’ll only vaguely recall having seen it in the first place. Perhaps the real meaning of its title, then.


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