DVD Review HTF REVIEW: DÉJÀ VU

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matt Hough, Apr 15, 2007.

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  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Déjà Vu
    Directed by Tony Scott

    Studio: Touchstone
    Year: 2006
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
    Running Time: 126 minutes
    Rating: PG-13
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 French, Spanish
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
    MSRP: $29.99

    Release Date: April 24, 2007
    Review Date: April 15, 2007

    The Film

    3.5/5

    You’ll need a strong suspension of disbelief to get the most out of Tony Scott’s mix of sci-fi, thriller, and love story Déjà Vu. Taking an apparently standard terrorist bombing scenario and using it to build a love story filtered through an unusual time travel motif, Déjà Vu may not have enough action for fans of that genre, and the time travel mythology may also be a deal breaker for some. Once I bought into the premise, I found it engrossing for much of its two hours, but the ending felt a cheat and left me cold, exactly the opposite of what the filmmakers obviously wanted. Like another recent time-related love story The Lake House, I felt the writing toward the end didn’t do justice to the fantasy premise so well established earlier on. Somewhere in Time remains for me the film that got this kind of “wrinkle in time” love story right. Of course, neither The Lake House nor Somewhere in Time was a thriller. And as a thriller, Déjà Vu has a lot going for it.

    ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) finds himself investigating a horrifying explosion on a ferry right off the shore of New Orleans, and while digging through the rubble and remains, the body of a woman washes up on shore, obviously killed earlier and yet somehow connected to the bombing. While investigating her home, Carlin comes upon clues that link him to this woman, someone he has no knowledge of ever knowing before this day. Meanwhile, an FBI agent (Val Kilmer) introduces him to a scientific breakthrough called a Surveillance Window which uses previous satellite transmissions from a variety of angles to track terrorist activities four days before an event occurs so that they can see the perpetrators and their methods and help lead to their arrests. What Doug ponders as he watches this marvel of technology is if it’s possible to use it to teleport objects back in time that might somehow alter what’s about to happen. An experiment with a note at first seems successful but ironically leads to dire consequences.

    You can guess where the story goes from here, and writers Bill Marsilii and Terry Rosso have to do some shaky slight of hand explanations to account for the time travel aspects of the plot. This is where the suspension of disbelief really is required, and once that’s accomplished, Marsilii and Rosso make all of the earlier clues and signs that made no sense fall beautifully into place. They stumble, sadly, with their warm and fuzzy resolution, but until then, the movie was really working as both a mystery thriller and a tentative love story.

    Denzel Washington gives a stable, solid performance as agent Carlin, but he’s not exploring any new depths of characterization we haven’t seen before. Unfortunately, Val Kilmer is wasted as the FBI agent. Paula Patton makes a fetching love interest despite some boneheaded moves the writers give her character late in the film. Adam Goldberg does the nerdy lab tech to perfection while Jim Caviezel pulls out all the stops as the agitated, misguided bomber.

    Tony Scott keeps things moving with his usual dexterity, and while Déjà Vu didn’t quite match the level of involvement with the protagonist that he generated in Enemy of the State, his best film, the movie still manages its fair share of thrills, excitement, and surprises.

    Video Quality

    4/5

    The film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is presented in anamorphic video. Taken from a pristine source, the film on the whole looks very good with strong color, great blacks, and generally good sharpness especially in close-ups. There are occasional instances of edge ringing, but this is kept in check for most of the film. More problematic is an intermittent smearing or softness in some shots, and I noticed a slight gold cast used in the photography of the surveillance lab scenes (40 minutes of the picture takes place there) which I found tiresome after awhile and which strangely faded away during other lab moments. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    5/5

    This is a Tony Scott/Jerry Bruckheimer film (think Top Gun) so of course the sound is hyperactive. The entire soundfield is in use constantly in the film, and explosions, car chases, and gun battles will keep your speakers and subwoofer occupied continuously. Outstanding highs and lows merit the highest praise here with dialog firmly rooted to the center channel and easily discernible amid the booming sound effects and music emanating from the other speakers. The sound designers have done a top-notch job with this soundtrack.

    Special Features

    3.5/5

    Rather than having separate audio commentaries and “making of” featurettes, this DVD combines these features into what it calls a “Surveillance Window,” based on the title of the technology used in the movie. Basically using seamless branching to offer additional information in featurettes (about thirty extra minutes’ worth) at seven different points of the film (e.g. the ferry explosion, the work of the makeup and wardrobe departments, the development of Denzel Washington’s character), this is a variation of the Infinifilm experience used on the DVD of Thirteen Days and a few other movies. As for the running commentary, director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and writer Bill Marsilii keep the viewer constantly engaged with astute comments about every aspect of making the film. It’s a very lively and winning exchange. The seven featurettes are also available for viewing independently without rewatching the film.

    The disc also offers five deleted scenes and three extended scenes, all presented in anamorphic video and with the ability to turn on or off the director’s commentary which accompanies them. As the film bordered on overlength in its theatrical version, the omission of all of this material was a wise decision. There are about eight minutes of deleted scenes and five and a half minutes of extended footage.

    As is usual with Disney and its related branches, sneak peaks of upcoming releases are offered. Here it’s Kyle XY Declassified and The Queen, each presented in non-anamorphic widescreen video.

    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)

    I wasn’t bowled over by Déjà Vu (Washington’s previous film Inside Man was much more to my liking), but the film does offer enough entertainment value for the action fan to at least warrant a rental.

    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    Excellent review, Matt!

    I really wanted to see this one in the theater but never got around to it. I was going to buy it blindly because it has the thriller/time travel element of film that intrigues me (not to mention Denzel's acting), but after reading your review, I may just rent it!
     
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Note that Terry Rossio has repeatedly dissed this movie in public -- he doesn't like what Tony Scott did with it. So who knows who's *really* responsible for the unsatisfying (taking your word for it; I haven't seen it) ending.
     
  4. Richard N

    Richard N Extra

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    I really enjoyed Deja Vu when I caught it in theaters. Tony Scott's filmmaking is toned down to a much more coherent level here and it fits. Not an amazing movie, but entertaining and better than the average action/sci-fi fare.
     
  5. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Just popped in a few scenes but man there really was ALOT of halos around objects. Early on when Denzel is down on the river and looks up...it's horrendous. I also noticed the inconsistent sharpness.

    Certainly want to finish the whole thing but very surprised a new title like this from Disney looks rather poor. I hope what I saw was just an abberation.
     
  6. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    I loved the layering of clues in the movie, but I do wonder what happened to

    Doug when he first went back (before the events in the film started). We know the woman died when he went back before. No evidence of what happened to Doug after he went back to her place unless he was too late and decided to leave clues for the other Doug to follow

    Too bad they didn't include the original theatrical trailers on the DVD.
     
  7. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    It is. The BR disc looks gorgeous.
     
  8. JeffMc

    JeffMc Supporting Actor

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    I don't usually watch big Hollywood action-pics anymore since they usually bore me to tears, but since this one was shot in New Orleans post-Katrina, I wanted to see it (I grew up there).

    The netflix disc arrived today and I was really surprised how much I liked the film. Yes, the science is preposterous and you need a LOT of that suspension of disbelief, but if you can go with it, you may have a really good time. I found it to be very clever and interesting. A few moments like Denzel driving the wrong way over the Mississippi River bridge (I never heard anyone call it the "Crescent City bridge" when I lived there) wearing that helmet-gadget were pretty dumb, but overall, it kept you thinking throughout. I don't know what the original ending was supposed to be, but I had no problem with how it wraps up in the film. I thought the ending was completely suitable. I do have to say the shots of the Ninth Ward were devastating, but never exploitative. The film is dedicated to the people of New Orleans. Damn, I love that town. The quality of the transfer looked fine to me, but I didn't watch it on my good set-up, but instead on a smaller monitor. I may end up buying this disc when it price drops.

    David_Blackwell: I read your spoiler twice and I still can't figure out what you are referencing.
     
  9. Dave Simpson

    Dave Simpson Second Unit

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    I get the funny feeling that I've seen this movie before...or not, I can't really be sure.
    Cheers.

    DS.
     
  10. Kevin Grey

    Kevin Grey Cinematographer

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    Yeah, I pretty much agree completely with Matt's review. It took a *major* leap of faith with the science behind everything but once I made that leap it was a very tight, enjoyable thriller up until the ending which not only is a complete cop-out but violates everything that the movie has set up.

    I half-expected to find a deleted ending on the DVD where Claire dies which would have been the only ending that would be acceptable IMO.

    Otherwise very enjoyable. Scott finally reigned himself in after the headache inducing Man on Fire and Domino and the "chase scene" was one of the more inventive I've seen in many years.
     
  11. STARKILLER1138

    STARKILLER1138 Second Unit

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    Nice review. I have this movie coming via Netflix also. Definitely looking forward to seeing this one. Denzel's movies have never disappointed me.
     
  12. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

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    Watched my Netflix rental of this, and was thoroughly entertained. Worth waiting to see it on my home theater.
     
  13. Brett_M

    Brett_M Screenwriter

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    Agreed. I loved it.
     
  14. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    I rented DV from Netflix and really enjoyed it. I tend to just lose myself in movies and just go with the flow (rather than trying to figure things out), letting the movie "take me away" so I had no problems with how it all panned. Easily worth a watch for a rented popcorn flick. However, as a buy, it wouldn't hold up for me because the re-watch value isn't there.
     
  15. STARKILLER1138

    STARKILLER1138 Second Unit

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    I finally got to see this last night (with my wife) and we loved it. This is easily one of my new favorites with Denzel. Like you, Ron, I tend to lose myself in the movie too. I didn't have to suspend my disbelief any more for this movie than I did for LOTR or SW; and, as for the ending, it definitely left me wanting more.
     

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