As I watched the DVD for Deja Vu I had this uncanny feeling that I’d seen it all somewhere before. Suddenly it hit me. I had seen it all before. It was a darkened multi-plex last Thanksgiving weekend. That’s when I saw the film for the first time and was somewhat intrigued by the originality of the story. I have to say that watching it again on DVD, I think I liked it more the second time around. The basic concept is perhaps not original at all. It is the framework of the idea that I found refreshing. The film also…sparks more than a casual philosophical debate that brings in such high concepts as morality and paradox. This is certainly a film worth thinking about, and that is all too rare today.
Another area in which this film excels is the casting. It’s not that these are the most stunning performances I’ve seen. What I admire most here is the way the actors easily blended into their parts like a chameleon disappearing from a predator. None of the portrayals leap from the screen and dazzle you with their art, but you almost instantly accept all of them as the characters they play. For such a well known actor like Denzel Washington that is no small feat but, I believe, one of the best compliments one can pay to an actor. Paula Patton is stunning without looking like a typical sex symbol.
New Orleans has experienced a remarkable resurgence since the tragedy of Katrina. The credit for this renaissance can be found in many places. Hollywood has contributed admirably with a large slate of films of late centered in this recovering landscape. Couple this desperately needed infusion of cash with such a public stage for the city’s spirit to be displayed and this rebirth is no surprise. I was a bit astonished at first that a film which so graphically depicts a disaster involving such loss of life would have made New Orleans its home. The original story was set in New York, perhaps another questionable choice. After seeing the result, I think the filmmakers made a brave and somehow appropriate choice. Still, those who are sensitive to 9-11 reminiscent events might do well to avoid this picture. The ferry disaster is rendered with startling detail.
Deja Vu is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is quite clean of any print or compression artifacts. Colors are soft, but that is the way the film was shot, and so very true to the original presentation. With this said, there are still moments of incredible sharpness and rich colors. The ferry explosion is almost too sharp, displaying each horrific moment in incredible detail. Black levels are near perfect, providing a wealth of layer detail and exhibiting none of the common artifacting. While this is nowhere near a perfect image, it appears to excel in all the right areas at all of the right times to create an overall natural feel that allows you to be drawn into the film with ease.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is very much a rollercoaster ride. There are many moments of near silence as Washington examines a scene. The music is haunting but always subtle at these times. I was genuinely impressed with how easily I was able to enjoy so many scenes where little was actually happening. Maybe it’s Washington’s acting, or more likely the entire presentation, but these quiet moments are very compelling. When the score or an explosion requires it, the audio makes dramatic turns to often overpowering levels. I was a little disappointed in the sub response during these moments, however. Dialogue was always where it needed to be in terms of volume. The quality of the sound is always crisp and extremely clean whether we’re talking a trickle or a flood of sounds. Rears are not utilized quite as much as I would have liked here. I feel there might have been some missed opportunities to further engage the listener. Overall this was a nice soundtrack that becomes essential to keep us interested.
“Deleted & Extended Scenes” There are about 13 minutes of scenes that really don’t add much to the film. It’s obvious the film was well edited here, and these scenes merely provide a closer look at some of the film’s moments already perfectly explored. You can view them all at once or individually. There is also an optional commentary track for each.
“Surveillance Window” This is actually a clever presentation. While the material is really your traditional looks behind the camera, you have two options to enjoy them. By selecting the Window, you have now modified your feature film. Now when you watch the film snippets of this feature will suddenly pop up. These “Déjà vu” moments explore a scene just before you are about to view the finished footage in the film. While I applaud the effort and creativity here, I found it more than a little distracting. Fortunately they thought of that possibility, and you can watch this feature on its own. It is a little complicated. You must access the “Index” without selecting OK in your “Window” menu. From the index you have the option of playing all of the feature or the pieces individually.
I liked almost everything about this film. It’s one of those efforts that will never be considered a “great” film, or even one of my favorites, but it is an easy film to watch. This is one of those times that all of the elements blend together quite seamlessly. While that doesn’t provide the audience as many of the oohs and ahs we often look for in a film, it does give us the feeling that we’ve actually experienced something when we’re done. The film surprisingly has great rewatchability, so that buying it makes more sense than renting here. This is the kind of film I wouldn’t mind watching and writing a review for. “Maybe I already did”.
Special Features List
- The Surveillance Window
- Deleted and extended scenes