4 Days 6 Hours
For those who watch a lot of movies will know that when you see "Jerry Bruckheimer production" you think action, when you see Tony Scott you think style and when you see Denzel Washington you see an actor who can deliver drama and characters. And these three things basically make up "Deja Vu"; we get Scott's style, Washington's character delivery and then the expected action from a "Jerry Bruckheimer production". More importantly these three things work because they are accompanied by a decent storyline which starts of relatively slow, builds an intriguing picture before delivering an action packed second half. For a movie which gives us the sci-fi of time travel it is cleverly put together and entertaining on different levels so if you want action you've got it but you've also got a well though out storyline.
When a ferry full of servicemen and their families is blown up ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington - John Q) is one of many men investigating the crime and it is his powers of observation which brings him to the attention of the FBI, especially when the body of Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) washes up and he discovers that she had been killed before the bomb but planted to look as if she was a victim. Recruited to an experimental FBI surveillance unit Carlin discovers that the FBI have managed to create a worm hole to the past, 4 days 6 hours ago and can observe what happened and so want him to use his observational skills to lead them to the terrorist. But in Carlin's head he is wondering whether than just being able to use the system to arrest the terrorist after the crime they could use it to physically go back and not only prevent the crime but for Carlin to save Claire.
Now I said that "Deja Vu" starts relatively slowly which is a bit of a lie because we have one huge explosion and hundred's of people dead. But this isn't an action packed opening but an act of terrorism which draws in ATF agent Doug Carlin to investigate and brings him into contact with various FBI agents including Agent Paul Pryzwarra. Now it is Carlin who observes the scene and picks up on the clues which others miss, he is good at visualising what happened and where evidence may be and the FBI are impressed. At the same time he receives a call from a woman back at head office, a woman is found washed up after the explosion and Carlin manages to see through the obvious to see what is less obvious a connection.
But the thing is that whilst all of Carlin's investigations are important to the case it is the fact that it paints this picture of an Agent with great observational skills which leads him to the FBI recruiting him as part of a special observational team and this is where the element of time travel enters the frame. We get this concept that the FBI science geeks have managed to create basically a worm hole which allows them to observe what happened 4 days and 6 hours before and want Carlin to watch the footage of what happened 4 days 6 hours earlier to help solve who the terrorist was who planted a bomb on a steam boat. Now I will be honest I didn't attempt to follow the science and explanation which is served up because it is such a good idea that I didn't want issues in logic to spoil it. And to be honest when you don't try to over analyse the science it makes for an entertaining scenario, watching what happened in the past to see how the crime was being committed.
So we have this story with Carlin trying to observe the past to hunt down a terrorist but it doesn't prevent the crime from ever happening, not just the mass murder of the people on the boat but the murder of Claire Kuchever, the body washed up by the river. And so we have the element of whether or not this worm hole into the past could be used to physically return to the past to save the girl and prevent the terrorist from mass murder. And whilst we get a mention of the consequences that changing the past could have on the present it doesn't try to over complicate things.
This basically leads into the main action part of the movie, almost traditional action if you like but before we get to this we have already been treated to one of the cleverest and craziest action scenes you will ever see. We watch as Carlin hits the road wearing special goggles which will visualize 4 days 6 hours earlier, he is bombing along a busy road now but through the goggles is seeing what happened on that road 4 days 6 hours earlier, and so is chasing the terrorist to lead him to his hideout. It is crazy, slightly comical, perfectly over the top but great as we watch Carlin dodging traffic in the present whilst trying to keep one eye on the past in order not to lose the trail.
Now all of which is great but what makes it even better is a layer of intelligence because seemingly unimportant clues or even clues which suggest something else become pivotal during the second half of the movie. For example following the discovery of Claire's body, Carlin heads to her home to look around, he sees a bloody rag in the sink, bloody cotton buds in the bathroom, a gun, a message on the fridge and a strange answer machine message it all leads you to think that at some point Claire had been attacked in her home. But come the second half these clues return and we discover the truth a clever truth which makes sense. And that intelligence extends to how the movie ends, through out all the action never losing the grip on trying to logically explain things.
Now whilst Tony Scott delivers all of this mystery, intrigue and action with style it is Denzel Washington as Agent Doug Carlin who carries the movie. It his attention to detail which makes us believe he is a very good agent, it is his almost comical patience when trying to get answers which makes us warm to him and when it comes to the action he is just as believable, tough but no superman. It is Washington who in many ways makes it work as a lesser actor just couldn't have been so convincing. But Washington is helped by a mix of characters with Adam Goldberg adding a touch of humour as Dr. Alexander Denny whilst Paula Patton is beautiful and confused as Claire.
What this all boils down to is that "Deja Vu" is one of those rare movies which mixes intelligence with sci-fi and action and gets it right. From beginning to end it is entertaining delivering this mix of an intriguing idea with moments of action and the occasional moment of humour which draws you in and keeps you watching. There may be plot holes in the logic, any movie which does time travel is prone to certain flaws, but it is so entertaining that holes in the logic don't seem important.