Deja Vu

July 12th, 2007 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

Tony Scott reigns in the celluloid mainlining of Domino and to a lesser extent Man on Fire for this quite straight action thriller. It’s completely ridiculous but told with such earnestness and finesse it works. Only in the last five minutes does it fall apart into sentimentality and the contrivance of the plot the style has thus far hidden from you.

Carlin (Denzel) is an ATF agent assigned to the scene of a brutal terrorist attack in N’Awlins. Still in shock after Hurricane Katrina, a pleasure craft jammed with partying navymen and their families is dispatched from this Earth in the sort of fireball only the Scott brothers or Michael Bay have the audacity for with Bruckheimer’s money behind them.

When a mutilated and murdered woman turns up on the bank in an apparently unrelated crime, Denzel smells the rat. He’s approached by the FBI to take part in a top secret surveillance program where they can look at any point in the city exactly four days before in an unceasing datastream, the FBI hoping to combine the technology with Carlin’s talent for sniffing out clues.

But there’s a very James Cameron plot device; it’s not really a surveillance technology; scientists have discovered a way of folding spacetime on itself, connecting the point four days ago where they’re looking to the present moment.

While he centres on the last few days of the dead girls’ life, Carlin (bit of a stretch here) starts to fall in love with her, and while getting closer to the psychotic killer (Caviezel) in a series of increasingly action-packed and implausible set pieces, she becomes the lynchpin of the case before Carlin decides to take the ultimate trip to stop the carnage before it can begin.

Denzel Washington has long become the Robert De Niro to Tony Scott’s Martin Scorsese, and it’s only because of his elegance and presence that something so silly can be presented (and taken) seriously. He does has a bit of Tom Cruise syndrome — always playing the likeable hero — but one thing he always does is put more into a character than can be written on the page, even a run of the mill thriller hero like Carlin. His presence in a film gives it an automatic mark of maturity.

Fun, exciting and as tense as every thriller should be, so grumbling about the scientific fantasy is a misnomer. Rather than a commentary, there’s a feature that stops the movie at certain points with cast and crew giving away the behind-the-scenes secrets.

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