BEEN THERE, SEEN DAT

Den­zel Wash­ing­ton finds him­self with plenty of time on his hands in Tony Scott’s loopy sci-fi thriller, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

DÉJÀ VU ★★ Di­rected by Tony Scott. Star­ring. Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, Paula Pat­ton, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel, Adam Gold­berg, Bruce Green­wood 12A cert, gen re­lease, 125 min IF YOU were able to travel back in time and change his­tory, what would you do? Per­haps you’d set the imag­ined tem­po­ral trans­porter’s des­ti­na­tion set­tings to South Shields in the early 1950s, seek out Tony Scott upon ar­rival and, happy dreams of a fu­ture with­out The Hunger or Days of Thun­der rac­ing through your brain, push the still blame­less lit­tle tyke off a bridge.

Then again, maybe you wouldn’t. Af­ter all, what sane per­son would pick on young Mas­ter Scott and leave Michael Bay free to con­tem­plate his even more unlovely mon­strosi­ties?

Be­sides which, Déjà Vu, Scott’s latest emis­sion, is re­ally not that dread­ful. It’s not good, you un­der­stand. This char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally sleek en­ter­tain­ment is re­lent­lessly im­plau­si­ble, morally du­bi­ous and, like vir­tu­ally all time travel movies, rid­dled with puz­zling nar­ra­tive worm­holes. But, for the first hour at least, it zooms along at a crack­ing pace and, prof­it­ing from Scott’s vul­gar vis­ual in­ven­tion, re­mains busy enough to dis­tract the viewer from ask­ing too many ques­tions.

The film, which is shot in New Or­leans and fea­tures sev­eral clumsy al­lu­sions to Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, be­gins with the det­o­na­tion of a bomb on a packed river ferry. Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, an oper­a­tive for that puz­zling US en­tity, the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco and Firearms, is dis­patched to gather ev­i­dence and, ea­gle-eyed as he is bizarrely for­tu­nate, quick- ly comes across some be­wil­der­ing anom­alies.

Recog­nised as a man to watch by his su­pe­ri­ors, he is as­signed to a new di­vi­sion us­ing ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies to solve par­tic­u­larly se­ri­ous cases. The team of boffins claim they are us­ing satel­lite tech­nol­ogy to as­sem­ble star­tlingly com­pre­hen­sive and well-de­fined com­pos­ite footage of the crime scene four days ear­lier. But Wash­ing­ton, ei­ther pre­scient or a rav­ing lu­natic, soon fig­ures out that the sci­en­tists have found a way of look­ing into the past.

While the pro­tag­o­nists

are merely us­ing their dis­cov­ery for ret­ro­spec­tive sur­veil­lance, the film works quite nicely. One fine scene, as ab­surd as it is ex­cit­ing, sees the hero dodg­ing traf­fic as he fol­lows the vil­lain’s move­ments four days ear­lier (per­haps you had to be there).

Sadly, Scott and his cronies even­tu­ally suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion to send Wash­ing­ton back in time and the ini­tial high-con­cept fades away to be re­placed with dizzy­ing silli­ness and re­peated egre­gious flout­ing of Star Trek’s Prime Di­rec­tive. Déjà Vu? You’ve seen it all be­fore.

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