Deja Vu with Denzel Washington
Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The time-travel rom-com About Time and time-travel family movie Free Birds have us revisiting older, better time-travel movies.
DĆ©jĆ Vu (2006)
Snow White, the technology at the center of Tony Scottās sci-fi romance DĆ©jĆ Vu, is not, strictly speaking, a time machine. Rather, itās a one-way ātime window, ā a sort of peephole into the pastāfour days, six hours, three minutes, and 45 seconds ago, to be precise.
Because sending back matter is difficult and dangerous, Snow Whiteās primary function is surveillanceāa major theme in Scottās work, and one that was well suited to his cross-cutting, space-warping style. While thereās an emotional undercurrent to Scottās other surveillance narratives (most noticeable in Spy Game and Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3, both of which are one kiss shy of being overtly homoerotic), only DĆ©jĆ Vu foregrounds it, as ATF agent (Denzel Washington) falls in love with the image of a woman (Paula Patton) who died in a bombing heās investigating.
Stories of viewers falling in love with imagesāpaintings, photos, moviesārecur throughout film history. Theyāre a big part of how the medium views itself. DĆ©jĆ Vu plays off of this. Snow White, after all, looks more like a piece of filmmaking technology than a traditional time machine. The multiple screens and jog dials bring to mind an editing suite. Its central mechanicāinvestigator-viewers trying to make sense of āfootageā days after an eventāresembles the shooting-printing-dailies process of celluloid-based filmmaking. (Scott never switched to shooting digitally.) Even if the movie wasnāt intended as a filmmaking metaphor, it sure feels like one.
Scottās fixation on bridge imagery and leaps into the unknown (both of which now uncomfortably seem to presage his suicide) further contribute to the filmās self-destructive, romantic vibe. Itās a story about a man whose love for an image is so strong that it transcends the laws of physics, not to mention narrative logic.
All of this probably makes DĆ©jĆ Vu sound like a heady downer, which it isnāt. Rather, what distinguishes the movie is the way itās able to integrate these themes into an expertly-crafted Hollywood thriller, marked by strong supporting performances from Val Kilmer and Adam Goldberg, big set pieces, and applause-ready crowd-pleasing moments such as the climactic āleap into the unknown.ā Scottās best movie, it achieves a rare thematic heft without skimping on the entertainment.
Availability: DĆ©jĆ Vu is available on Blu-ray and DVD, the latter of which can be obtained through Netflix, and for rental or purchase through the major digital services.