Denzel Washington and Tony Scott reunited for 2006’s Déjà Vu which was their third film together and second with Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The Touchstone Pictures film introduced the post-Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans to the world. Buckle up for an explosive and time altering film.

The Movie

New Orleans is beautiful as Déjà Vu begins. A ferry sets sail with hundreds of naval personnel and families, and the sky is clear as they look to celebrate Fat Tuesday. The ferry explodes in a terrorist act that brings ATF agent Doug Carlin, played by Denzel Washington, to the scene. Carlin assesses the scene and witnesses the carnage as multiple causalities line the dock in body bags. Another body is found down from the scene and looks like one of the many victims from the explosion. The victim, Claire Kuchever, played by Paula Patton, was not on the ferry, but Carlin believes she is connected to the bomber.

FBI agent Pryzwarra, played by Val Kilmer, brings Doug onto his team, and meets a group of surveillance experts who have data from four days ago. Following Carlin’s lead of investigating what happened to Kuchever, the team finds out that the bomber indeed contacted her and used her SUV to blow up the ferry.

For Carlin, the new surveillance data looks too real. Carlin deduces that what he is watching is not recorded video but real time events. When he tests his theory the system crashes, and Carlin learns the truth. The project leader, Denny, played by Adam Goldberg, explains that the team cracked the Einstein Rosen bridge theory which creates a wormhole in time to four days prior.

The team uses this tech to track the bomber, Carroll Oerstadt, played by Jim Caviezel. Even though they have arrested the bad guy, Carlin wants to save Claire. With reluctance from Pryzwarra, but helped by Denny, Carlin gets sent through the wormhole, and wakes up four days prior. His plan to race to Oerstadt’s property to save Kuchever works, but Carlin starts to recognize how he is repeating the history he has already investigated.

Both Carlin and Kuchever follow Oerstadt to the ferry on the day of the bombing. A gun battle ensues, and Carlin begins to change the future. Oerstadt is beaten, and now Carlin and Kuchever race to save the ferry from a fiery doom. Doug sacrifices himself, and Kuchever is pulled from the water to safety. On the shore as the passengers disembark, she meets ATF agent Doug Carlin of the present and the film ends just as she begins to explain to him what she just went through.

The Best

Denzel Washington commands the screen as he tries to piece together an unspeakable crime and make sense of what he is being told about this new surveillance ability. Washington is our conduit through the picture as the wormhole is explained, Washington asks the questions that everyone in the audience would ask. He’s charming, dedicated to the task, and tries to make sense of what he sees.

Paula Patton as Claire is a refreshing take on the damsel in distress. She conveys a lot of emotion through the surveillance scenes and when we finally get her and Washington in a scene together, their chemistry is apparent. Patton makes Claire intelligent, strong willed, and noble, and she doesn’t get a lot of screen time to make this possible.

Caviezel as a domestic terrorist is a surprising choice, and a good one. This is only a few years after the terrorist attacks on September 11, and to see the villain of a major film be a domestic terrorist is a great choice. Sometimes action films get caught up in using a certain demographic as the villain. Caviezel is frightening as Carroll Oerstadt. Looking at him from a distance, Oerstadt seems to be the average normal American. Hearing him talk and listening to how he expresses his rage and hatred is terrifying. Déjà Vu reminds us that sometimes the enemy is the person next door.

The Worst

Déjà Vu is a forgettable film. This is the film you have playing in the background when you are working on something else. There is a consistent focus on beefing up the action while ignoring any plausible explanation of the science. The subterfuge at the start when Washington is brought into the team and not told about the reality of the video, he is seeing is unnecessary. He could have been brought in right away and avoided the messy and clunky dialogue of explaining to his character what he was seeing halfway through the movie. It stalls the plot.

Val Kilmer is a forgotten character in the film. His Agent Pryzwarra is not given much of a role. He is instrumental in bringing Carlin to the team, but Kilmer doesn’t get much screen time to make his character stand out. This is a shame as Val Kilmer is a talented actor, watch Tombstone for an example of how skilled of a thespian he is. Keeping Kilmer in the scene when Carlin is about to travel through the wormhole, would have given some closure to Pryzwarra. Instead he locks the door and leaves letting Adam Goldberg’s Denny do the major work in sending Carlin back to the past.

Fun Facts

  • The script was purchased for over four million dollars. This was one of the most expensive script buys at the time.
  • There is little to no profanity in the film.
  • Pre-production on the film started three months before Hurricane Katrina struck. After the hurricane there was a great debate about filming in New Orleans, with some thought of even moving the film to another city. Three months after the hurricane pre-production returned to the city and started to work again.
  • A press conference held by Tony Scott and the lead stars announced they would employ the local community in the film and incorporate post Katrina New Orleans into the movie.
  • Washington reunites with former St. Elsewhere costar Bruce Greenwood and Crimson Tide costar Matt Craven who plays his partner Minuti in this film.
  • When the scientists describe how the blackout of 2003 was caused by them trying to create their fuel for their wormhole, they would need more power than the sun can produce in its lifetime to make this a reality.
  • When Oerstadt raises his left arm in the film like the Nazi salute, it’s a KKK salute.

See It/Skip It?

See It if you have nothing else to watch. Déjà Vu has its faults, but the film is enjoyable, and you have a feeling of satisfaction once the end credits role. There are some great moments with Denzel on screen, and the action is crafted like most of Tony Scott’s films. I liked this movie. Not every film needs to be a collision of acting gravitas like Crimson Tide. Sometimes you just need an escape, and Déjà Vu will provide this.

Next week on ‘To Touchstone and Beyond’: With the NBA season being postponed for now, I look at Hollywood Pictures 1996 basketball comedy Celtic Pride.

Director: Tony Scott

Production Company: Touchstone Pictures/ Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Principal Cast: 

  • Denzel Washington as Doug Carlin
  • Val Kilmer as Agent Pryzwarra
  • Adam Goldberg as Denny
  • Bruce Greenwood as Jack McCready
  • Paula Patton as Claire Kuchever
  • Jim Caviezel as Carroll Oerstadt  

Release Date: November 22, 2006

Budget: $75 million

Box Office Gross Domestic = $64,038,616

        Total Worldwide Gross = $180,557,550