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Hi-Def Review
Blu-ray Disc review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Déjà Vu (Blu-ray Disc)

1080p - Analog Full ResolutionBlu-ray Disc FormatUncompressed PCM

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Déjà Vu
2006 (2007) - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Released on Blu-ray Disc on April 24th, 2007

Film: C-
Video (1-20): 19
Audio (1-20): 15
Extras: A

Specs and Features:
126 mins, PG-13, VC-1 1080p widescreen (2.35:1), BD-50 DL, Elite Blue HD packaging, High-Definition Movie Showcase, audio commentary (with director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and writer Bill Marsilii), Surveillance Window making-of featurettes, 5 deleted scenes (with optional commentary by director Tony Scott), 3 extended scenes (with optional commentary by director Tony Scott), animated film-themed root menu with audio/"in-film" menu overlay, scene access (16 chapters), languages: Uncompressed PCM 5.1 (English) & Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, French), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

Within my own personal universe of cinema exists two kinds of science fiction: reasonable sci-fi and ridiculous sci-fi. Reasonable sci-fi tends to exist in films set in the future where the sky's the limit in the mind of the filmmaker (The Matrix), in films where the science is introduced by extraterrestrial influence (Contact and 2001), or when the sci-fi is tongue-in-cheek or used for comedic purposes (Men in Black). And then there is ridiculous sci-fi. In my experience ridiculous sci-fi films are very few when compared with reasonable sci-fi, but they reek of unmanageable leaps of faith and the director taking the subject matter too seriously. And these films almost always try to shoehorn absurd technology into modern times with a straight face. Vanilla Sky is an example of ridiculous sci-fi, and unfortunately so is Déjà Vu. But Déjà Vu also suffers from storytelling and character shortcomings that weaken the movie a bit more. But is it really THAT bad? Read on...

Déjà Vu is the kind of movie that is almost impossible to summarize without giving too much away. ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is brought in to investigate the explosion of a New Orleans ferry that killed hundreds of people. The mutilated body of Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) washed up on shore minutes before the explosion. Due to her early appearance at the scene of the crime Carlin is convinced that she is the key to the entire incident. As Carlin investigates further into who this mystery woman is he finds himself becoming more impassioned with her as both a clue and a woman. Carlin is introduced to some... uhh... extremely high-tech government gadgetry that might allow him to prevent the ferry tragedy and save the eye candy. Put two and two together and I think you can figure out where this is going. I wonder if Claire were a 70-year-old overweight grandmother if Doug Carlin would have been as heroically motivated...

No matter how much the filmmakers tried to sell the plot of Déjà Vu and despite the buffet of science geeks in the film explaining the technology to the skeptical Doug Carlin (who is supposed to take the point-of-view of the equally skeptical audience), no storytelling sleights of hand were able to convince me. In fact I spent a good deal of Déjà Vu's first two acts in hysterical laughter, while my wife quickly lost interest and dozed off on the loveseat.

But beyond the bad science fiction other shortcomings weighed the film down. Denzel Washington continues his seemingly inexhaustible streak of playing almost the identical take-no-guff, yet extremely earnest man's man (see: Inside Man, Man on Fire, Out of Time, John Q, The Bone Collector, Courage Under Fire, et al). Also, the love story is tenuous and hard to swallow, especially for Claire's end of the relationship. And the film has its share of logic gaps. Why is there a communications system in the "machine" when it was never meant for human use?

But Déjà Vu is not without merit, especially the film's third act. Leave it to Tony Scott to provide jaw-dropping explosions and tense moments of action. Not to mention one of the most idiotic, yet at the same time one of the most innovative car chases on film. Ironically the technology used in this action segment is the most ludicrous in the movie's story, yet this is my favorite scene. This leads me to my final point: if you can successfully cross the chasm-like leap of faith this film demands, you will probably have a good time. The action is solid, there's good suspense, the acting is convincing for a genre piece and the script features a few (intentionally) funny lines of dialog. Déjà Vu might end up being one of those films that get a bit better with additional viewings; the absurdity of it all may begin to dim leaving the film's stronger points to shine a bit brighter.

While the film is hard to swallow, Déjà Vu on Blu-ray Disc is quite a tasty experience. Let's start with the video. Buena Vista provided the Déjà Vu BRD with a stunning 2.35:1 VC-1 1080p transfer that stands proud with the best the format has to offer. The film has the advantage of being very recent, so it was probably not difficult for the studio to produce a 100% perfect source print. Colors are vivid without being oversaturated and shadow delineation is excellent. Thanks to the use of a 50GB disc, there is not a single hint of compression artifacts. There is also no edge haloing which is surprising given the frequent shots of heavily contrasting images. Tony Scott toned down his visual style with Déjà Vu compared with the jarring stock changes and color filtration extremes of his recent films Man on Fire and Domino and this relaxation into more traditional cinematography is welcomed. However, Scott did transition from film to digital several times in the shoot and the quality of this transfer make these transitions obvious.

The audio quality of the disc is also good, but not as impressive as the video. The uncompressed PCM track found on the disc (as well as the companion 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track) can sound excellent during the more explosive, action-oriented scenes of the film revealing an excellent amount of soundstage depth and liberal use of the surround channels. However, the overall mix of this soundtrack is inconsistent. Unless there is a great amount of commotion going on the mix becomes overly conservative and downright boring. While it can be challenging to make expository scenes exciting from a sound mixer's point-of-view, the transitions between scenes of action and dialog emphasize the track's inconsistencies. Perhaps this was a conscious decision by the filmmakers in order to emphasize (or, "sell") the explanations of the technology by drowning out all other unnecessary aural distractions.

The presentation of the extra features on the Déjà Vu BRD is the best I have experienced on the format so far. What's more, all video supplements are presented in VC-1 1080p widescreen. The Surveillance Window making-of documentary is the centerpiece of the supplements. Presented as a pseudo In Movie Experience, the documentary has been broken into 5-10 minute pieces with each piece automatically triggered during the relevant moments in the film. Between each Surveillance Window segment, while the actual film is running, there is audio commentary by Tony Scott, producer Jerry "Moneybags" Bruckheimer and writer Bill Marsilii (more on this in a second). This method of combining making-of video supplements with an audio commentary gives the time-strapped viewer a good deal of information with little wasted time. The featurettes are presented in context and the commentary covers the smaller details not discussed in vignettes. It would have been nice, however, if the commentary were accessible on its own without the Surveillance Window segments popping in.

Back to the commentary: This track is an unusually candid study in how this movie was one gigantic compromise between the director and the writer. At times writer Bill Marsilii does not seem convinced of the story or the logic behind it. Further, it appears that his overall vision of the film was to be first a love story, second a science fiction film and third an action movie; this is not how the film turned out. However, being a first-time writer left him with little latitude in the shadow of giants like Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer. On the other hand you have Tony Scott who comes off as lukewarm to the entire effort and spends a great deal of time explaining how he dealt with the absurdity of the film's science. I got the impression after listening to the track that he made the film with great reservation, he had to compromise more than he would have liked and Déjà Vu is probably not the favorite of his works. Unfortunately the participants were recorded separately, so there was no direct discussion between them.

Moving on, the disc includes five deleted scenes and three extended scenes, all with optional Tony Scott commentary and presented in 2.35:1 VC-1 1080p. With each DVD I have watched over the last 10 years I become more and more convinced that deleted/extended scenes are almost always best left deleted. I realize that this is the number one favorite feature of the average DVD buyer, but a majority of the time deleted scenes are completely superfluous, especially when they are not presented within the context of the film. The deleted/extended scenes on the Déjà Vu BRD are no exception. But for Joe and Jane Middleamerica, deleted scenes are present. Rounding out the supplements is a feature called the HD Movie Showcase that automatically plays the scenes in the film most worthy to show off your cutting edge home theater system.

If you have a high tolerance for over-the-top sci-fi stories or if you're not terribly cynical, you will probably be sufficiently entertained by Déjà Vu, despite the minor character and story weaknesses. Otherwise, you might find yourself breaking out in laughter much more often than the filmmakers would like. Denzel Washington continues his streak of playing almost interchangeable characters, so if you are huge fan of the actor you'll find plenty to love here. The Blu-ray presentation of the film is grand, especially the well-conceived supplements. If you are a fan of the film the BRD is definitely worth picking up. Otherwise make it a rental.

Greg Suarez
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