11.25.2006

The Smell of Tension is in the Air
The Déjà vu Review
When I walk into a room I can immediately detect (or sniff out, if you will) any residual fart stink as well as the exact number of hairs sprouting out of each person’s furry ear. I have no equal when it comes to detecting small personal flaws, except maybe for Denzel Washington’s newest character, government agent Doug Carlin.

Of course, Doug’s job isn’t to sniff out the last time someone sharted a big one; he’s more concerned about finding the terrorist behind a massive New Orleans bombing that’s killed hundreds of people.

With his eye for details, Doug Carlin quickly determines that not all is what it seems. There are too many inconsistencies in the crime scene; a misplaced body, a missing partner, and strange notes all point to a greater conspiracy.

This build up of tension and unease is one of Déjà vu’s greatest strengths. For the first forty minutes, the sense that something isn’t quite right is strong and constant. The film’s focus is squarely on the growing body of suspicious evidence and the sparse dialogue is smart and to the point, like the rest of the film’s setup.

It also doesn’t hurt that Denzel Washington is perfect for this role. His expressive face slides between anger, laughter, and thoughtful consideration with ease. At one point, Denzel’s character becomes obsessed with a woman (played by Paula Patton) that he believes is integral to solving the bombing. The mixture of sexual desire, tenderness, and longing on Denzel’s face when he views her is creepy and strange but completely appropriate for the film. I couldn’t think of another actor who could bring Doug Carlin to life. And somehow Denzel looks as good today as he did back in the Civil War.

That is one good-looking civil war veteran.

Déjà vu’s gripping tension is highlighted with some very well orchestrated action sequences. This film also features one of the more creative car chases I’ve seen in quite a while. It gets the heart pounding and keeps the audience guessing what will happen next. Unfortunately Déjà vu does suffer an occasional let down.

Without spoiling any plot twists, I will say that some complicated science is involved. And the requisite explanations drag the film’s pacing down to that of a two-legged dog’s. Adam Goldberg is often hilarious during these explanations but the scientific babble probably could have been toned down a notch or two.

More disappointing than the occasional plot slow down is the disjointed final thirty minutes. Early on, Déjà vu used the presence of significant details to hint at a greater conspiracy, so it’s frustrating when those details aren’t completely resolved and explained by the film’s conclusion. There is excitement and drama, but the satisfaction is tempered by the feeling that director Tony Scott cheated to get the ending he wanted.

Déjà vu offers great atmosphere and excitement and clings to both for as long as it can. Although there is a bit of a let down in the film’s second half, this is still a quality action flick with plenty to think about. I smell a decent one here and I think you’ll agree.

Déjà vu finds itself in Paul territory.
(That’s the equivalent of 3 out of 4 stars for the unitiated)

8 comments:

Emma said...

Great, great, review. Really! I really enjoyed reading that, and I'll keep an eye out for the movie now.

Orhan Kahn said...

Is there a role Denzel can't play?

Matt said...

emma - Thanks! Deja Vu definitely deserves your attention if you're a fan of action and/or sci fi flicks.

orhan - excellent question. And the answer is... no. Denzel could convingly play a Scottish single mother with fifteen cats and a taste for S&M.

dymock said...

Nice review Matt, I'm not normally a fan of Denzel but may well check this one out.

Sadie said...

I'm glad you reviewed this one, I was wary of spending money on seeing it after being disappointed by Denzel in Man on Fire and Out of Time.

Matt said...

dymock - Glad to hear it!

sadie - Umm, I actually liked Denzel in Man on Fire. But this version of Denzel is much less sappy if that's what bothered you.

Sadie said...

Well, it wasn't Denzel that bothered me so much as just Man on Fire in general. I thought it was weird. But Denzel in general is always good, there's really no such thing as bad Denzel-- it's like bad pizza or bad sex. Just doesn't exist.

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