It's a cliché of modern action/suspense movies that surveillance footage, when examined by a bespectacled tech guy with a keyboard and a joystick, can reveal information well beyond its capability. "Zoom in." "Okay, zoom in a little more." "Now enhance it." And somehow, that mass of blurry pixels in the far corner of the shot becomes the killer's face, clear as a window. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott exploited this magical technology eight years ago with Enemy Of The State, a thriller that was like The Conversation for ADD sufferers, and they push it so far over the top in their new film Déjà Vu that the results are trashily enjoyable. Déjà Vu first asks the audience to accept the possibility that extraordinarily detailed surveillance footage (with sound, no less!) can be captured through a confluence of multiple satellites. Then it simply bends the space-time continuum like a soft pretzel. Rarely have Bruckheimer and Scott been so upfront about insulting people's intelligence.
Set in post-Katrina New Orleans—a locale the film exploits to nauseating effect—the film opens with a catastrophic river-ferry bombing that kills 500 people. Assigned to investigate the case, ATF agent Denzel Washington focuses his attention on Paula Patton, the only victim who was dead before the bomb went off. With the help of fellow agent Val Kilmer and a crack team of joystick-wielding technicians, Washington is able to track Patton via incredibly detailed surveillance footage from precisely four and a half days into the past. Later, Washington realizes that it isn't surveillance at all, but a wormhole into the past, which he could potentially crawl through and change the future.
As with all time-travel movies, concerns arise about how his actions in the past—a past in which he already exists, no less—will alter the future, and how much control destiny ultimately employs over the events. Yet Déjà Vu will never be mistaken for Primer. Bruckheimer and Scott have never had the patience for philosophical questions; they just want to find new ways to deliver the same old stuff. This leads to wonderfully ridiculous setpieces like a chase scene in which Washington follows a truck in the past by donning a goofy space-age helmet and zipping through a present-day traffic jam in a Hummer. At moments like these, when all credibility is thrown out the window and lands in another dimension, the movie feels liberated from the Bruckheimer assembly line. The rest of the time, it's business as usual.