Déjà Vu

Mark Palermo is our movie man about town.

At its most evident, Déjà Vu is Minority Report’s premise in reverse. But it samples from a whole variety of science fiction films and police thrillers. The result is somewhat shapeless—troubling mainly because the movie rarely convinces that its makers have proofread their premise. Yet it’s delivered with an assured pacing and discovery where the story is still revealing itself after the first act.

Working in post-Katrina New Orleans, ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) has begun investigating the bombing of a ferry. Its destruction is highlighted by shots of burning bodies leaping into the water—the director Tony Scott’s way of making things exciting while suggesting the weight of loss. Carlin begins working with the FBI, who have surveillance technology that allows them full audio/ visual access of four days and six hours ago. Déjà Vu spends a long time explaining this technology, only to reveal that it is, in fact, something else entirely.

Technological intrigue (something Scott excelled at in Enemy of the State and Spy Game) becomes fantasy intrigue. Carlin turns to time travel in an effort to prevent the crime. The consequences of tampering with the past aren’t addressed, presumably because it’s easier if they don’t apply. Oddly for a time travel flick, Déjà Vu’s focus on achieving momentum means it rarely looks back.

The hallucinatory editing that characterized Scott’s Man on Fire and Domino is done away with here. Déjà Vu’s slick look is legibly expressive while making room for Scott’s usual hallmarks of colour-coding, high angle nighttime cityscapes and heavy sunshowers. The professionalism also extends to the movie’s characters. United to get things accomplished after the government’s backburner handling of Katrina, it’s a very diplomatic action film. Despite one scene, there isn’t the expected struggle of Carlin having to disprove his superiors. Even the villain is more ethically misguided than outright demonic.

Deck the Halls

The Christmas comedy Deck the Halls has no grounding in anything resembling Earth. It speaks the same sheltered language as those internet posts that defended Michael Richards’ stage meltdown on the grounds that being called a “cracker” is as oppressive as the N-word. Not on this planet.

Deck the Halls isn’t outwardly racist (its absence of any visible minorities bespeaks a basic ignorance), but its total disconnect is without reward. The jokes don’t recall anything. The actors don’t act like people.

Upset that his house can’t be seen from space, Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito) goes on a Clark Griswald rampage with his Christmas lights. This causes a blinding nuisance for neighbour Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick). Of course, he’s lucky—his house is big enough to already be visible from the satellite images on a website.

Rather than taking a natural progression into poking fun at the consumerist transformation of a holiday, Deck the Halls becomes a take on ’80s-style neighbours-at-war comedies. Except it has all the wit and visual style of a Friday night sitcom. Hall’s dopey wife and barely dressed daughters are TV side characters. When Finch tries reporting the neighbouring disturbance to the police chief, he backs off upon remembering that the chief is a cross dresser. Even the big slapstick pieces, like Finch nearly dying by falling into a frozen lake, are ideas that should have been discarded.

It’s not enough to be set at Christmastime. Deck the Halls has no Christmas spirit.

Show your spirit. write: palermo@thecoast.ca

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