|Written by Bill Warren|
|Sunday, 01 July 2007|
It’s a visually spectacular film, and includes an awesome ferryboat explosion in the Mississippi River, just offshore from New Orleans. There’s also a car chase conducted simultaneously during a rainy night AND a bright, sunshiny day (this is cleverly set up and involves a machine capable of peering into the past). One feature, new to me, is labeled “Movie Showcase”—which, we’re told, provides “Instant Access To The Filmmakers’ Most Cinematic Moments That Showcase The Ultimate In High Definition Picture And Sound.” All those grandiose capital letters set up a mere three scenes, including the ferry explosion (which, surprisingly, left the ferry unharmed; in two weeks it was back on the Mississippi, and is apparently still there).
This is indeed a terrific scene for high-definition: the explosion used liquid fuel, resulting in enormous orange fireballs laced with angry-looking black clouds, flinging cars and people in all directions. There are also some impressive shots from an underwater perspective, showing the people and automobiles plunging into the river. It’s a relatively brief scene—explosions are quick—but is extended somewhat by editing. It’s the kind of scene that’s so awesome, so satisfying to our desire for exciting destruction (at least in movies), that even while watching the film, you longed for a replay function. This disc has it.
And it has thunderous sound as well; you can easily make your walls literally shake with the force of this explosion. It’s exactly the kind of thing that makes a home theater worth having; you’re likely to show this to friends to impress them with what an eye- and ear-popping experience high-definition video can be. The writhing cloud of fire, cars plunging into the river, bodies on fire (excellent stunt work—no CGI was involved except perhaps as an enhancer)—it’s real movie spectacle.
In the car chase, star Denzel Washington is wearing a helmet electronically linked to billions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment at a laboratory, enabling him to see four and a quarter days into the past. He uses only one of the gadget’s eyepieces, plus his own eye seeing the traffic that’s on the freeway right now. It’s better in concept, though tricky, but ragged in execution; it’s a little hard to accept this justice-seeking agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco smashing heedlessly into the cars of innocent bystanders, then roaring off in pursuit of the car he’s following. It’s spectacle solely for the sake of spectacle.
The several extended and deleted scenes can be watched with or without narration by director Tony Scott; as usual, it’s reasonably clear why these scenes were shortened or removed, though there are a couple of bits that could well have been left in. As Washington watches Paula Patton—she’s four and a quarter days in the past (and it’s here present-moment murder he’s trying to solve)—he gradually falls in love with her; there’s a telling moment when, in her apartment in the past, she kneels to pray and Washington lowers his eyes, either joining her or too moved to watch. This is a nice touch of characterization, and could have been included in the finished film, although it’s still a bit long for a movie of this nature.
The most interesting feature is a variation on commentary tracks that’s new to me. Other DVDs, high definition and otherwise, have occasionally included a feature allowing you to hear and see the making of a particular scene, but there’s something different here. According to the somewhat overheated description on screen, the “Surveillance Window” “Will Allow You To Go Back In Time With The Filmmakers For On-Set, Behind-The-Scenes Moments Just Before They Happen In The Film.”
This turns out to include a commentary track by director Scott, co-writer Bill Marsilli and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Choosing this option starts the movie at the beginning, with the three (recorded separately) alternating comments. At appropriate points, the frame freezes, a grid of scenes appear, one enlarges and you’re watching behind-the-scenes footage (also narrated), including comments by stunt directors, effects personnel, cameramen and some of the actors, discussing a specific scene or concept. At the end, the grid reappears, a frame enlarges and the movie recommences. This seems to be a nearly-ideal combination of commentary and making-of featurettes; I hope other companies take this approach.
We learn about a technique called “cross process” which adds to the contrast of an image, and deepens the blacks. We hear how Marsilli developed the idea with the aid of veteran screenwriter Terry Rossio. We learn that Washington partly modeled his character on a real government agent, Jerry Rudden—who appears in this documentary footage himself. We learn that the screenwriters and director Scott locked horns over just how science-fictional the story was to be—they wanted more, he wanted less. And we learn that the film was in production during Hurricane Katrina; the movie is dedicated to the spirit of the people of New Orleans.
“Deja Vu” isn’t an exceptional movie, but this treatment of it, plus the vivid intensity of the high-definition images, makes this Blu-ray disc an ideal purchase for those eager to find movies to highlight their home theater system.