U.S. Release Date: November 22, 2006
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Bill Marsilii, Terry Rossio
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer, Terry Rossio (executive)
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, James Caviezel, Adam Goldberg, Elden Henson, Bruce Greenwood
Running Time: 2 hours and 8 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images and some sensuality)

Techno Thriller Works
by Scott Holleran

The latest "what if … ?" entry, Disney's Deja Vu, directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington, is an edge-of-the-seat thriller. With a plot based on wormholes that totally discards the laws of physics, it is necessary to temporarily accept the movie's time travel hook—which makes no sense—to enjoy the show.

Mr. Washington plays a razor sharp government investigator whose previous work on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing qualifies him for a major terrorist attack post-mortem in New Orleans. However, the apparently straightforward strike, originating with a Sport Utility Vehicle packed with explosives, does not add up and he knows it.

Aided by federal agents played by Val Kilmer and Bruce Greenwood, Mr. Washington's heading-over-the-hill caffeine junkie keeps noticing discrepancies in the crime's time line. A diverse team of computer geeks helps him account for the contradiction. They are like a behind-the-scenes Mod Squad in a top-secret scientific experiment, courtesy of an academic grant, that hasn't quite gone operational.

Without revealing the plot, and the mechanics are as decipherable as the chantings of a witch doctor, the good guys act as time cops in a race to rewind and fast forward reality to stop a terrorist from taking out his intended target.

The terrorist, a sweaty-looking type, wanders in and out of the picture like Jack the Ripper in Time After Time (which Deja Vu resembles) while the band of control room scientists, with Mr. Washington as the guinea pig, manipulate technology for maximum alteration of reality. It's a techno-thriller bearing the mark of screenwriter Terry Rossio, who co-wrote with Bill Marsilii and executive produced with his Pirates of the Caribbean partner, Ted Elliott.

Expect multiple explosions and cliffhangers and one terribly exciting chase across a bridge.

Approaching the material with a nice, swift pace and not too much action blasting, director Scott sticks to the script, letting Washington be the hero and staying away from disorienting visuals. Central in this effort, and juicing Deja Vu, is a stunning young woman portrayed by Paula Patton (Idlewild). While the age difference is somewhat distracting, with the Glory star heading into the grandparent years, his character's infatuation with the pretty young thing works.

The silky-skinned beauty is an innocent caught in the deadly chain reaction (like Mary Steenburgen in the romantic Time After Time). Though she doesn't get much to do besides pose and provide the reason why Mr. Washington looks seriously smitten, she's incentive for any man to want to jump through hoops and turn back time.

She is not suspicious when she should be—don't follow the time line too closely or it falls apart—and where the story's headed is not entirely surprising, but it is also not entirely predictable, which puts Deja Vu solidly in the class of satisfying action thrillers.

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Cause and Effect Thriller
Man on Fire
Revenge Redeemed
Inside Man
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The Manchurian Candidate
Mommie Smearest
Minimum Wage Thriller
Minority Report
Petty Larceny