I've often thought that Denzel Washington films are hit or miss. The actor has such a presence that he can sometimes lift a film above common plot problems, or the typical frustrations that come with a badly written story.
Washington is one of those actors who stars in a film that either works, or it doesn't.
The past few movies in which Washington has starred, particularly Inside Man and Man On Fire, have worked. Both films had intense action, and required Washington to stretch his skills a bit to play character types with which he was previously unfamiliar. That torture scene in Man On Fire--where he tapes the hands of a criminal to a steering wheel and cuts off a finger every time the criminal lies--was unlike any character I can recall Washington playing.
And I loved it.
Washington teams up again with Man On Fire director Tony Scott in Deja Vu.
The movie starts out as a typical whodunnit before morphing into a sci-fi flick complete with time travel and alternate endings.
Washington plays Doug Carlin, an AFT investigator with a rep for being able to figure out tough cases of domestic terror. He is called to the scene of a horrendous crime: a ferry, carrying civilians and America navy personnel is blown up, killing hundreds. Carlin quickly recognizes the act of terror, and joins the FBI in it's investigation.
That alone is a fine movie plot, with enough material to entertain for 90 minutes. But, Deja Vu doesn't stop there. It transforms into a sci-fi thriller that incorporates the government's ability to investigate a crime by looking back in time. Carlin isn't content just to collect evidence by watching the event unfold again. Nope, he wants to prevent it from happening.
And to do that, he's gotta quantum leap back, to four-and-a-half-days before.
Deja Vu has some minor problems, such as being fairly predictable and selling out a bit on the ending. But Washington--like always, it seems--elevates this movie above it's otherwise pedestrian status. He makes it interesting, and makes the audience invest in him enough to care about the characters and the outcome.
Deja Vu; he did it again.