Where is Stephen Hawking when I need him? I was hoping he could help me travel back to four days ago and avoid buying a Déjà Vu movie ticket. Surely this brilliant theoretical physicist knows something about wormholes that might work. However, it’s not the wormholes that bothered me so much in Denzel Washington’s new film. Instead, it's a perplexing plot hole I'm concerned about.
Fortunately, Washington (The Manchurian Candidate) exudes his usual screen charisma here as Doug Carlin, an ATF agent who’s trying to find the terrorist responsible for bombing a New Orleans ferry full of military personnel and their families. We know Carlin is exceptionally good at his job because of his serious demeanor and the way people say “Oklahoma City” when meeting him, as if in homage to his previous work.
What makes this New Orleans case unique for Carlin is that he must travel through space and time to solve it. So far so good. Time travel always intrigues me. And, as presented in films like The Time Machine and Frequency, I have no trouble suspending disbelief. But the way it’s handled in this techno-thriller boggled my mind completely, and I’m still scratching my head trying to figure the whole thing out.
You might be wondering why I mentioned “four days ago” in my opening paragraph. Well, the scientific crew headed by FBI Agent Pryzwarra, played by Val Kilmer (Mindhunters), has found a way to look at the past -- but only as things are happening four days previously. When challenged by Carlin, they admit that items, like a note, can be sent back to the scene. If that’s true, Carlin surmises, then a person might also be able to go back. Our hero wants to try this because he’s fallen for Claire Kuchever, a beautiful corpse discovered in the water and thought to be one of the bombing victims.
It seems that Claire, portrayed splendidly by Paula Patton (Idlewild), holds the key to finding the terrorist as well as to Carlin’s heart. While the hi-tech surveillance team views this lovely woman in all her living glory, Carlin feels like he’s seen her before, hence the film’s title. And here’s where I experienced a bit of déjà vu myself. Where had I seen something like this before? Ah yes -- in Laura, a detective played by Dana Andrews becomes obsessed with Gene Tierney’s supposedly dead character after seeing her haunting portrait and investigating her apartment. Not a bad model to emulate. Still, no confusing time travel was necessary to bring these two soul mates together.
Which leads me to the confusion I’m in because of the huge plot problem that ruined Déjà Vu for me: when our hero goes back in time to try and change things, why do certain people who died then come back to life while someone who survived in the past continues to be dead and another person who died then is still alive in the present? Yikes! My head is about to explode.
I wonder if Dr. Hawking makes house calls.
(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images and some sensuality.)