Starring: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, James Caviezel
Story: There's a major terrorist attack in New Orleans. Luckily, the US government has discovered how to harness the power of pixies in order to view events exactly four and a quarter days in the past. They get a local federal agent (Washington) to help them figure out where to point the pixies so as to catch the culprit as quickly as possible. This involves solving a separate murder, a ludicrous car chase, a couple of paradoxes and falling in love with someone who's already dead.
Comments: I don't usually bother with DVD extras. I find being told how a movie was made a bit like having a joke explained. I'm not that fussed about hearing the director muttering into a microphone about the creative challenge of their latest project, either. Extended scenes were usually cut short for a reason. And so on. I did start on the commentary for Deja Vu, though. I hoped that someone might point out a way in which it all made sense and thus take my headache away.
I was sadly disappointed.
The makers of Deja Vu are in denial. The commentary starts with three of them sitting around claiming it's not a science fiction film but a love story. One of them even claims it's science fact rather than science fiction. Twice.
Excuse me? If your story revolves around a technology that doesn't even remotely exist then it's science fiction. Having a plausible explanation couched in quantum physics doesn't let you off the hook - it just goes to prove that you don't have the faintest idea what you're doing. (And, sorry, having a love interest doesn't make it a love story).
By talking up the details of the science, Deja Vu is on a hiding to nothing. Those who know about the actual science won't be convinced and those who don't will just be confused. The makers would have been better off briefly mentioning that it's all down to pixies and simply getting on with things.
The evil robot in Terminator 2 is essentially made of pixies. Does anyone care? Not really. Its unlikely shape-shifting abilities are hurriedly glossed over. No one dwells on the mechanics or complications of time travel, either. It's all just a set up for some explosions and a few thoughts on fate and free-will.
Most good science fiction films rely on the fact that any suitably advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. How the machine works isn't really important - it's what's done with it that matters. Deja Vu doesn't embrace the pixies, however; it goes to great lengths to explain them away. You have to suspect the director and friends just didn't want the words 'science' and 'fiction' associated with them at the same time in case they got banished to a basement full of Star Trek fans by their literary buddies.
The film-makers did rope in some scientists to help but, unfortunately, they asked the scientists the wrong question. They asked, 'How might it be possible to look back in time?" The scientists gave a complicated explanation full of big words that was entirely speculation. The film-makers then regurgitated this speculation as fact in an effort at credibility.
What they should have done was handed over a script to the scientists and asked, 'Is this internally consistent?' That way, some of the enormous holes in the story might have been plugged and a few basic science errors corrected. The whole thing might even have made some kind of sense. Meanwhile, the technological plot device at the heart of the film could have happily remained powered by pixies and yet the overall suspension of disbelief required would have been greatly reduced.
The action sections are great and all the actors turn in passable performances. In the right hands (i.e. not those of science-phobic arts graduates), Deja Vu could have been a fantastic film. As it is, it's slick and entertaining but ultimately a dog's breakfast.
Conclusion: If you put CSI, 24, The Bourne Identity and Back to the Future in a box and shook them together you might get this. You'd probably be tempted, however, to close the lid and rattle the box about a bit more in the hope of getting something better.
Flux capacitors: None.
Understanding of science fiction: Minimal.
Pixies: Not enough.
Rating: C+ out of 5.